By Diodato Bouzigues
Books are often described as the portal to another world, a place where imagination thrives and innovation is born. For a young Cary Moon, they presaged her future careers as an engineer, city planner, urban activist, and potential mayor of the Emerald City.
“Every time a book was set in a big, cosmopolitan city I had this very strong connection. I want that kind of complexity in my life,” Moon said. “I can’t wait till I’m old enough to live in a city.”
She has lived in cities ever since college. Now, Moon is a mayoral candidate running to improve Seattle, the city she has called home the past 20 years.
Moon is running on a pro-social justice platform which includes improving transit, assisting the homeless, and increasing affordable housing. She garnered 17.6 percent of the vote in the runoff and captured multiple endorsements, notably from the King County Democrats and The Stranger.
But before she became an urbanite Moon was a small town girl aspiring to greatness in the city. Moon moved around a lot the first few years of her life. Born in Butler, Pennsylvania, Moon’s family moved to Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, finally settling down in the town of Buchanan in southwest Michigan, all before the 2nd grade.
Moon lived in Buchanan from the 2nd grade all the way to high school. The feel around the town was working-class and Moon remembers her high school as mostly the children of farmers and factory workers.
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s of Science in Operations Engineering, Moon went to work in the U.S. Department of Labor for two years writing case studies and best practices. While she loved her job, she worked during the waning years of the Reagan administration and described the feeling there as “under siege.”
Moon says her team was doing good work in the midst of President Reagan’s notably fraught relationship with the Labor Department and labor unions. Moon’s team tried to keep a protective shell around their work and a long distance from the administration’s undermining of the department.
After her time in the Labor Department, Moon moved to Redmond where she worked for four years at a microelectronics firm as an operations engineer. She focused on building a better product, specifically on the build and how to make it better or more efficient.
She returned to Michigan for a few years to work in the family business and decided to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.
Moon remembers that living in Buchanan was boring and that she really loved cities. To pass the time in 1970s Buchanan, she read a copious amount of books. Moon credits her bookworm upbringing as a guiding force influencing her decision to change fields.
“I realized after 10 years as an engineer that this is what I want to do with my life,” Moon said. “I went back to graduate school to study city planning.”
She started off in that field, but realized it wasn’t the right fit. All of the innovation, creativity, and the dialogue concerning the future of cities was occurring in the landscape and architecture department, according to Moon. She switched departments and graduated with a master’s in landscape architecture with a certificate in urban design. Her work has always focused on planning city-scale projects and believes that her background will help her as mayor.
Running for Office
The political world is a fluid animal. There’s always something breaking in the newsroom that interrupts the normal routine. For instance, a couple of days ago a bombshell hit the internet. Stephanie Formas, spokesman for the Jenny Durkan campaign, claimed that the Moon campaign was peddling homophobia.
The Durkan campaign forwarded emails from the Victory Fund to major news outlets, including The Seattle Lesbian. The email claimed a Moon supporter was inciting voters against Durkan saying that “people should vote against Jenny because a woman can be in power ‘without always looking like a man,’” partially quoting Liz Fitzhugh, founder of the Creative Ground consulting group, though not officially associated with the Moon campaign. “The supporter doubled down and said Jenny’s opponent had a ‘healthy blend of masculine and feminine traits.’”
Victory Fund self-describes as a “national organization dedicated to electing openly LGTBQ people to elected positions across the United States from the local to national level.” Victory Fund is closely associated with Durkan, Moon’s opponent. Victory Fund has been vocal in their support for Durkan’s campaign ever since they endorsed her in May. Durkan is a lesbian and, if elected, she would become Seattle’s first female LGBTQ mayor.
Moon completely rejects the charges of homophobia. She says that there is nothing homophobic about the email Fitzhugh wrote and that Victory Fund’s claims are nothing more than a political attack ad.
“It was a long, thoughtful email about leadership styles. Inclusive, collaborative, humble leadership versus the whole history of mayors in this city which has been, more recently, domineering,” Moon said of Fitzhugh’s email. “This person was writing that the way you lead change in an organization is not top-down, but a different kind of leadership that’s empowering.”
In an open letter published by The Stranger, a West Seattleite opined that they could not see themselves in the mayoral race because it would be “two wealthy white women deciding what working poor people of color really need.”
Moon says she recognizes her privilege as a white woman, but that she is committed to breaking down the barriers of systemic racism and white supremacy she perceives is in government. One of the ways she is doing that is through her campaign staff and cabinet. The vast majority of her staff are either women, minorities, LGBTQ, or a mix of each. Only two staff members are straight white men, and one of them is her husband.
Moon believes by diversifying her staff it will allow her to listen to different voices, multiple perspectives, and reflect the greater needs of the minority and lower-income communities.
Moon says that housing affordability, homelessness, and widening wealth inequality are problems stemming in part from power being held in too few hands, namely wealthy white people. Moon believes that by involving all stakeholders – LGBTQ, homeless, low-income families, whites, minorities – she can hear all problems and implement the best solutions to lead Seattle into a better, more prosperous tomorrow for everyone.
“I want to be a part of fixing that,” Moon said. “All of us, no matter where you came from or what your position in life is, need to work together.”