Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat who faced fire from both the left and right this summer over her handling of protests and the city's so-called "autonomous zone," announced she will not be seeking a second term, saying that campaigning would detract from efforts to fight the pandemic and boost economic recovery.
“We know stopping the spread of the virus, protecting jobs, and focusing on the economic recovery—especially for downtown—is going to take everything we’ve got,” Durkan said the message. “I could spend the next year campaigning to keep this job or focus all my energy on doing the job. There was only one right choice for our city: doing the job.”
Durkan, a former U.S. attorney who spent years working on police accountability and reform, faced criticism for her handling of nightly protests and riots following the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Under her leadership, the city for weeks tolerated the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest,” a several-block area that protesters claimed as a police-free “autonomous zone,” which authorities cleared out in July.
In the wake of civil unrest, Attorney General William Barr branded Seattle an “anarchist jurisdiction” and threatened to withhold federal funding.
Protests over the summer that called for cities to defund the police prompted many Seattle councilmembers to propose a 50-percent reduction in police funding, a move that led then-Police Chief Carmen Best, the city’s first black police chief, to announce her retirement.
Durkan resisted the depth of the cuts, at one point vetoing a budget proposal that included cutting about 100 law enforcement jobs.
Eventually, the Seattle City Council in November voted to slash police funding by 18 percent as part of the city’s 2021 budget.
Following the council's decision, Durkan said she would sign the budget into law while expressing relief they decided not to cut as deeply as some members had called for.
“I applaud the City Council for taking a more deliberate and measured approach to the 2021 Seattle Police Department budget than occurred this summer which led to the resignation of former SPD Chief Carmen Best,” Durkan said in a statement.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) called the cuts to policing “naive,” and warned that it would lead to higher crime rates.
Critics on the left have accused Durkan of being insufficiently forceful in resisting what they claimed were heavy-handed police tactics in response to the unrest.
Three city council members said Durkan should resign or at least consider it, and protesters demonstrated at City Hall and outside her home, calling for her resignation.
Earlier this year, far-left mobs targeted the homes of Seattle councilmembers, Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez, who refused to sign onto the pledge to slash police funding by 50 percent, although they did support making smaller cuts.