Jenny Durkan: First Openly Gay U.S. Attorney Enters Seattle Mayoral Race
Jenny Durkan, a prominent Seattle attorney, progressive civic leader and former U.S. Attorney who served in the Obama Administration, announced today that she is a candidate for Mayor of Seattle.She pledged to be a Mayor who provides leadership to get past the noise, pull people together, and get things done, including tackling big challenges and “sweating the little things.”
“In too many ways, for too many people, our incredible success is creating two Seattles. Too many people are being locked out, and too many cannot keep up with rising costs. The price of that first home, that first toehold in this great city, keeps climbing, beyond the reach of so many. And rents aren’t any better. The costs of living and raising a family here dwarf the rise in most wages,” Durkan said. “And, in the shadows of those shining new towers, too many people are living in tents, doorways and cars. I am running for Mayor because I believe we can bring light and love to those shadows. I believe we can reweave our frayed social fabric. I believe we can solve the problems we face, if we tackle them together.”
Durkan was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 as the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington and became the first openly gay U.S. Attorney in the country’s history. She led efforts to reform the Seattle Police Department, where new approaches to de-escalation, addressing with people in crisis, better training, and community engagement are models for police reform across the country.
As U.S. Attorney, Durkan also established a civil rights unit that prosecuted hate crimes, housing discrimination, and discrimination against returning veterans. She also helped Washington curb opioid abuse and cracked down on violent crime, increasing gun prosecutions by 45 percent. Durkan chaired key DOJ efforts to create new policies to address cyber-crime and consumer privacy.
In an essay on posted on Medium yesterday, Durkan described her background, approach to leadership, and the urgency of tackling Seattle’s challenges: “I am a strong progressive leader who brings people together. And in this era of Trump and the assaults from the other Washington, we are going to need to be united, embrace our diversity and come together to protect the values that make us who we are.”
“Our economic growth gives us the opportunity to invent the future on our terms – showing the nation what it means to police effectively with respect for civil rights, to support workers in the 21st century, to tackle homelessness with compassion and smarts, and to spend less time sitting in traffic or driving over potholes and more time with our families,” Durkan said.
Durkan was part of a team that fought President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration, resulting in the judicial order preventing people from being deported from SeaTac airport. She previously served as a criminal defense and plaintiffs’ attorney, including winning the 2005 recount lawsuit brought by Republicans to unseat Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire.
Born and raised in Washington State, Durkan was one of eight children born to former State Senator Martin and Lorraine Durkan. After college, Durkan moved to a Yupik fishing village in Alaska, teaching English and coaching girls basketball. She also worked as a baggage handler for Wein Air Alaska and was a dues-paying Teamster.
Durkan and her partner Dana Garvey have two teenage sons.
Durkan has served on the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors and the Merit Selection Committee for the United States District Court, which selects candidates for appointment to the federal judiciary in the Western District of Washington. She served as a board member of the Center for Women and Democracy, a founding board member of the Seattle Police Foundation, and chair of the Washington State Attorney General’s Task Force on Consumer Privacy that produced legislation that became a national model for identity theft protections.
She is the recipient of many professional and civic awards, including the Warren G. Magnusson Memorial Award from the Seattle Municipal League, the Jaswant Singh Khalra Award for Social Justice from the Sikh community, Distinguished Alumni from the University of Washington School of Law, Woman of the Year from the Seattle University School of Law, and the Urban League’s Spirit Award.