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Speculating on potential candidates for Seattle’s 2021 mayoral race

Seattle City Hall. (Dyer Oxley)

With Jenny Durkan announcing Monday that she won’t seek reelection as Seattle’s mayor, the field is now wide open in 2021. So, who might be throwing their hats in the ring in the weeks and months to come?

No high-profile candidates have announced their intention to run as of yet, but there’s been plenty of speculation about what the field might look like. The filing window for mayoral campaigns in Seattle will span five days between May 17 and May 21, 2021.

Lorena Gonzalez

As Seattle City Council President, Lorena Gonzalez would have the political positioning to cast herself as a viable candidate to run the city as mayor. First elected to the council in 2015, she occupies one of two at-large seats on the dais.

She previously mounted a brief campaign for Washington Attorney General, back when it appeared as though Jay Inslee would be pursuing a run for president, which in turn would have seen current AG Bob Ferguson run for governor. Gonzalez scuttled her campaign after it became clear that Inslee and Ferguson would both be running for reelection to their respective positions.

In her time on the council, she’s been responsible for bills covering everything from a legal defense network for immigrants and refugees to a ban on conversion therapy practices on minors.

UPDATE, 2/3/21: Gonzalez has officially announced her campaign for mayor.

Teresa Mosqueda

Mosqueda serves in the second of Seattle’s two at-large council seats, first elected in 2017. Over the last year, she’s been at the forefront of a handful of high-profile clashes with Mayor Durkan, including a landmark big business tax she sponsored, which Durkan left unsigned, as well as joining calls to rework the Seattle Police Department’s budget following protests stemming from the death of George Floyd.

Following a series of protests where SPD frequently used tear gas on Capitol Hill demonstrators, Mosqueda called on Durkan to “ask herself if she is the right leader in this moment and resign.”

Mosqueda chairs the council’s budget committee, a role that saw her leading negotiations with the mayor’s office to get the 2021 budget passed and signed by Durkan.

Because both Mosqueda and Gonzalez’s council terms end in 2021, they each run the risk of losing their seats if they choose to mount a mayoral campaign rather than pursue reelection to their current positions.

UPDATE, 1/6/21: Mosqueda will not be running for mayor, and instead has chosen to run for reelection to her current council seat. 

Dow Constantine

Constantine has served as the King County Executive since 2009. With his term ending in 2021, he would similarly lose out on a reelection bid if he made a run for Seattle mayor.

With over a decade of experience leading Washington’s most populated county, he would have a significant backlog of experience to tout in a mayoral campaign.

He made headlines over the summer when he unveiled a plan to convert remaining youth detention units at the Children and Family Justice Center to other uses by 2025. His plan was touted as a means to phase out centralized youth detention, and instead focus on diversionary programs.

His name had also came up in discussions surrounding the 2020 race for governor when it was unclear whether Jay Inslee would be pursuing a third term.

Nikkita Oliver

Oliver has long stood as a prominent voice for Seattle’s progressive political movement. They mounted a run for mayor in 2017, coming in third in the primary behind Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon, garnering over 31,000 votes.

In the years since, Oliver has served as an activist and community organizer, pursuing criminal justice reforms while working in the nonprofit sector.

They currently serve as the co-executive director for Creative Justice, “an arts-based alternative to incarceration and a healing engaged youth-led community-based program.”

UPDATE, 3/10/21: Oliver has announced that they will be running for Gonzalez’s open at-large council seat

Cary Moon

Moon faced off against Jenny Durkan in the 2017 election. Unlike Oliver, though, she advanced out of the primary with over 32,500 votes, before losing to Durkan by over 27,000 votes in the general election.

Moon first garnered headlines as an urbanist opposed to the city’s waterfront tunnel project, calling for a surface option replacement to the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and the construction of new parks and transit infrastructure in the area.

While she hasn’t yet made it clear whether she intends to mount another mayoral campaign, she did publish an editorial for PubliCola in September outlining the priorities she believes Seattle’s next mayor should adopt.

“In this next election, we desperately need both a north star vision to inspire us and a robust city-wide dialogue about new approaches and potential solutions,” she wrote, outlining a need for a progressive economic agenda, a “compelling vision for Seattle’s future,” and “working toward antiracism.”

Tim Burgess

Burgess served on Seattle City Council for a decade between 2007 and 2017, going on to serve as interim mayor for over two months after the resignation of Ed Murray.

Shortly after Durkan announced she wouldn’t be seeking reelection, Burgess published a blog praising her decision.

“Mayor Durkan’s decision to focus on the significant challenges we face instead of a re-election campaign is honorable and certainly consistent with her style, her integrity, and her commitment to public service,” he wrote.

“It certainly won’t help recruitment of similarly committed candidates, however,” he added.

Burgess went on to levy criticism against city council for an approach “driven more by ideological preferences,” and what he described as “a terrible idea to provide additional affirmative defenses for misdemeanor crimes.”

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