SEATTLE — Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan was leading urban planner Cary Moon by more than 20 points -- 60.6% to 39.4% -- in early election returns for Seattle mayor Tuesday -- a lead that appeared insurmountable.
Durkan, 59, had tallied 64,174 votes to 41,683 for Moon, 54.
Counting will continue for several days as more ballots arrive at King County Elections.
But Durkan gave a thinly veiled victory speech Tuesday night.
"So The Seattle Times has called the race," a beaming Durkan said to cheers from her supporters. "I know there's a lot of votes to be counted. But I have to tell you, we are feeling really, really good about where we are ... and I think you guys should celebrate."
There were only two candidates on the ballot.
Cary Moon issued the following statement Tuesday night:
"We are up against tough odds. Campaign spending for our opponent broke city election records, outspending us by more than 3:1. The Chamber of Commerce funneled hundreds of thousands on behalf of Comcast, CenturyLink, AT&T, Amazon and others into a no-limit PAC for our opponent.
"But Seattle late voters may surprise everyone. We believe the ballot counts will swing in our direction over time, and we’re not out of the race yet.
"Seattle’s voters won’t let the future of our city be sunk by status quo thinking and politics as usual. There is too much at stake. We look forward to the next few days of ballot returns. Thank you all."
The two-woman matchup came after former Mayor Ed Murray dropped his re-election efforts amid accusations of sexual abuse by multiple men. Murray had been expected to easily win re-election after pushing through increases to the city's minimum wage and emerging as a vocal opponent to President Donald Trump, whom Seattle voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2016. Murray, who has denied the allegations, resigned in September after a fifth accuser came forward.
The race between Durkan and Moon has centered on how the city will respond to changes largely brought by Amazon, which employs about 40,000 people in Seattle. Housing prices have skyrocketed amid constant complaints about traffic and worries that the poor and middle class are being priced out.
Durkan, backed by the city's business and labor establishment, has touted her managerial experience as a prosecutor. Moon, meanwhile, who formerly managed her family's manufacturing business, has stressed that she's not a politician and has focused on her 20 years of activism on transit, waterfront and other city issues.
The race has attracted big money with some saying Durkan's fundraising has hit record-breaking levels. Although it's her first run for office, the well-connected player in city and state Democratic circles has raised nearly $1 million. An independent-expenditure committees working on Durkan's behalf has raised nearly $847,000 to pump into election efforts.
Moon's donations have topped $355,000 with over $176,000 coming from her private bank account. An independent-expenditure group for Moon has raised over $27,000.
Because Murray resigned, the winner of the election will take office as soon as the election is certified in late November, instead of January.
Seattle's first female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes, was elected in 1926.