Jenny Durkan

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Jenny Durkan
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan Headshot.jpg
56th Mayor of Seattle
Assumed office
November 28, 2017
Preceded byTim Burgess
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington
In office
October 1, 2009 – September 30, 2014
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJohn McKay
Succeeded byAnnette Hayes (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1958-05-19) May 19, 1958 (age 61)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Dana Garvey
EducationUniversity of Notre Dame (BA)
University of Washington (JD)

Jenny Anne Durkan (born May 19, 1958) is an American politician currently serving as the Mayor of Seattle. Formerly a prosecutor, she served as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, appointed by President Barack Obama, from October 2009 through September 2014.[1]

Durkan was elected Mayor of Seattle in 2017, becoming the city's first female mayor since the 1920s and the city's second consecutive openly LGBT elected mayor.[2][3][4] She took first place in the nonpartisan August primary and defeated urban planner and political activist Cary Moon in the November general election, with over 60% of the vote.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Durkan was born in Seattle in 1958 and grew up in Issaquah, Washington as the fourth of seven children. She attended Forest Ridge School, a private Catholic girls school.[6]

She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1980. After graduating from Notre Dame, she moved to a Yupik fishing village on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska, where she taught English and coached a girls basketball team.[6] In Alaska, she also worked as a baggage handler for Wien Air Alaska in St. Mary's and was a dues paying Teamster.[citation needed]

Durkan earned her law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1985.[7] "I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 5 years old," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1992. "When I graduated from law school, my mother said, 'Finally someone is going to pay you to argue."'[6]


Private practice[edit]

While in law school, Durkan participated in a pilot criminal defense clinic, working with the public defender's office to represent individuals charged in Seattle municipal court. She continued the work on a pro bono basis, until she moved to Washington, D.C. to practice law with the firm of Williams & Connolly. There she did a range of civil and criminal cases, including representing reporters subpoenaed by the government.

Durkan returned to Seattle in 1991, and established a successful practice focusing on criminal defense and work on behalf of plaintiffs, including the family of Lt. Walter Kilgore who died in the Pang warehouse fire,[8] the case of Stan Stevenson (a retired firefighter who was stabbed leaving a Mariners game) and the case of Kate Fleming, who died from a flash flood in her own Madison Valley basement during the Hanukkah Eve windstorm of 2006.[9][10]

Among her most prominent cases in private practice was winning the 2005 recount lawsuit that attempted to undo Governor Chris Gregoire's election as governor in 2004.[11] The Democratic Party turned to Durkan with Gregoire's election "facing an unprecedented trial and Republicans trying to remove her from office."[12]

She worked with families and other attorneys at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to prevent the return of individuals who had arrived lawfully at the airport the day President Donald Trump's first Travel Ban executive order went into effect.[13]

After serving as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, she joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to head a new Seattle office, specializing in internet and online security issues.[14]

Civic leader[edit]

She served on the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission from 1993 to 1996. She served as the first Citizen Observer on the Seattle Police Firearms Review Board from 1997–2000 and two Seattle mayors asked her to serve on Citizen Review Committees for the Seattle Police Department. She also played an advisory role on the establishment of the King County Drug Court and the Mental Health Court.[15] She later helped create a specialized drug program in the federal courts in Western Washington.[16]

In September 1994, Durkan left the Schroeter law firm to join the staff of then-Washington Gov. Mike Lowry as his lawyer and political adviser.[17] In February of the following year, Durkan returned to the Schroeter law firm after resigning from Lowry's office.[17]

Durkan is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and maintains an AV rating[clarification needed] from Martindale-Hubbell. She served a three-year term on the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors. She served on the Merit Selection Committee for the United States District Court, helping select the candidates for appointment to seven vacancies in the federal judiciary in the Western District of Washington.

She served on the non-profit board of the Center for Women and Democracy from 2000–09, as a founding Board Member for the Seattle Police Foundation from 2002–04, and as the Chair of the Washington State Attorney General's Task Force on Consumer Privacy which resulted in legislation that became a national model for identity theft protections.[15]

U.S. Attorney[edit]

Durkan during her tenure as a U.S. Attorney

In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Durkan to be the U.S Attorney for the Western District of Washington, which covers 19 counties and is home to 4.6 million people (78% of the state's population).[18]

She was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on September 29, 2009 and was sworn in on October 1 by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik.[19][20]

While U.S. Attorney, Durkan created a Civil Rights Department in the office. It coordinates a variety of civil rights cases and outreach, including a number of cases on behalf of returning veterans.[18] She also has helped push police reform efforts in the Seattle Police Department after a Department of Justice investigation found a pattern and practice of excessive use of force.[21]

Upon taking office, Durkan was appointed to serve on the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, which advises the U.S. Attorney General on policy, management, and operational issues at the Department of Justice. She is chair of the Attorney General's Subcommittee on Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement. Durkan has played a leading role in prosecuting cybercrimes, including hacking,[22] skimming[23] and identity theft.[24]

Durkan worked with the public schools to ensure internet safety tips for parents and kids were sent home with kids at the beginning of the school year.[25][26]

Durkan has focused on terrorism and national security issues, including the prosecution of two men who plotted to blow up a military recruitment facility in Seattle.[27][28]

As U.S. Attorney, Durkan has used the federal law against felons possessing firearms to crack down on career criminals in Western Washington.[29] Cases referred for felons-with-guns charges increased 45 percent in the past three years compared with the previous three years.[30]

Durkan has pushed "hot spot" initiatives in high-crime areas to address drug and gun sales. These intensive investigations and law enforcement operations resulted in dozens of arrests and weapons confiscations.[21][31]

In September 2014, when the Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intention to step down, Durkan was widely discussed as a potential candidate to succeed him. The Obama administration nominated Loretta Lynch.[32][33][34][35]

Mayor of Seattle[edit]

2017 election[edit]

Durkan announced her candidacy for Seattle mayor on May 11, 2017, shortly after incumbent Mayor Ed Murray ended his re-election campaign.[36] She was labeled as an "establishment" candidate, among a crowded field in the primary race,[37] and picked up endorsements from Murray and members of the Seattle City Council,[38] as well as The Seattle Times and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.[39][40]

In the August primary election, Durkan placed first with 27.9 percent of votes, advancing to the general election with urban planner Cary Moon, who earned 17.6 percent.[41]

Durkan broke the record for most donors and most money raised in the history of Seattle Mayoral campaigns, out-earning Cary Moon 5-to-1.[42] She raised over $1 million.[43] Mayor Murray's Political Consultant, Sandeep Kaushik, joined Durkan's campaign and would later become a senior adviser to her. Kaushik is also a lobbyist for Comcast and also continues to advise the Mayor on policy.[44][45][46] The day after the November 7 general election, in which Durkan received over 60% of the preliminary votes, Moon conceded to Mayor-elect Durkan.[3][4]

In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event widely considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named her one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people".[47]

Personal life[edit]

Durkan is one of seven children. She is a daughter of Martin Durkan, a former member of the Washington State Senate who twice—in 1968 and 1972—was a candidate for Governor of Washington but lost both times in the Democratic primaries.[48][49] Durkan's mother, Lorraine Durkan, was the executive editor of the Ballard News.[50] Her siblings include photographer Tim Durkan and former NBC News correspondent Kathleen Durkan.[51][52]

Durkan is a lesbian. She and her spouse, Dana Garvey, live in Seattle and have two sons.[48][53]


Candidate Survivor[edit]

In July 2017, during a "Candidate Survivor" mayoral forum hosted by The Stranger and the Washington Bus, in the “talent competition” Durkan imitated Melissa McCarthy’s parody of then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer—that McCarthy did on Saturday Night Live—in costume, at one point used the term "colored person". Durkan apologized as soon as she took the stage again saying that she tripped over her words.[54][55][56]

Transportation issues[edit]

During Durkan's term as mayor, the Seattle Department of Transportation canceled several bicycle lanes and greenway projects that had been planned in previous years under the city's comprehensive bicycle plan and funded in the 2015 Move Seattle levy. In response, several cycling advocacy groups and city councilmembers protested the mayor's decision-making on bicycle issues.[57] Durkan has also been critical of scooter-sharing, with Seattle maintaining its ban on electric scooter-sharing apps unlike other major U.S. cities.[58]

In March 2018, Durkan halted planning work on the Central City Connector streetcar project, which would link the South Lake Union and First Hill lines of the Seattle Streetcar system, due to cost overruns.[59]


Durkan's selection of a permanent chief of the Seattle Police Department in May 2018 ran into controversy after her list of finalists excluded interim chief Carmen Best, who had also served as deputy chief. After receiving criticism from community activists and the police officers' guild for choosing out-of-state finalists, Durkan defended her decision on the recommendation of a search committee.[60] Best was nominated as a finalist by Durkan after another finalist withdrew to take a different position within the department,[61] and was confirmed as police chief in August 2018 by the city council.[62]

Workplace conduct[edit]

In April 2019, two staffers in the mayor's office accused Durkan of mistreatment and called the working environment "toxic". One of the employees alleged that Durkan had grabbed their face, which the mayor's office denied.[63]


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  2. ^ "Seattle has just elected its first lesbian mayor". November 8, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Beekman, Daniel (November 7, 2017). "Jenny Durkan defeats Cary Moon to become Seattle's first woman mayor since the 1920s". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Beekman, Daniel (November 8, 2017). "Cary Moon concedes to Jenny Durkan in Seattle mayoral election". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  5. ^ Beekman, Daniel (August 1, 2017). "Jenny Durkan leads in Seattle mayor's race, followed by Cary Moon and Nikkita Oliver". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Conklin, Ellis E. (August 10, 1992). "Score 2 for the defense; Attorneys compile winning record as firm's 'dynamic duo'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. C1.
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  22. ^ [1] "Dutch Citizen Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison For Computer Hacking Scheme That Stole And Sold Credit Card Info", U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, February 1, 2013.
  23. ^ "Oh, the Irony: Identity Theft Prosecutor Is Hacked", Time (magazine), September 8, 2011.
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  25. ^ Watson, Kendall (August 22, 2012). "U.S. Attorney's Office Puts Spotlight on Internet Safety". Mercer Island Patch. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
  26. ^ Byron, Linda (August 20, 2012). "School year starts with warning about Internet safety". King 5 News. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
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  50. ^ Willmsen, Christine (February 25, 2008). "Lorraine Durkan, 83, "always willing to listen"". The Seattle Times. p. B4. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
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  63. ^ Kroman, David (April 17, 2019). "Two former Durkan staffers alleged mistreatment in Seattle mayor's office". Retrieved August 25, 2019.
Legal offices
Preceded by
John McKay
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington
Succeeded by
Annette Hayes
Political offices
Preceded by
Tim Burgess
Mayor of Seattle