Sam Cho, 29, a former Obama administration appointee and owner of an export business, is leading the hotly contested race for Port of Seattle Commissioner Position 2 against former Bellevue Mayor and City Councilmember Grant Degginger in Tuesday’s ballot count, with 56.8% of the vote.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Cho, adding he had anticipated a much slimmer lead on the first night of the vote count.

Cho said he anticipates pulling ahead in coming days. Historically, more progressive candidates have received a boost as more votes are counted.

Degginger, though, wasn’t ready to give up. “There’s always a chance,” he said.

Less of a surprise is incumbent Fred Felleman’s victory over newcomer Garth Jacobson for Port Commissioner Position 5. In Tuesday’s count, Felleman was ahead with 69.2%.

Going into the general election, it was anyone’s guess who would triumph in the Position 2 race. Cho came out ahead in the primary with 31% to Degginger’s 25%. But the rest of that vote was shared among five eliminated candidates.


Cho and Degginger shared similar policy platforms — down to highly specific proposals, including for a remote check-in program enabling travelers leaving from Sea-Tac Airport to drop their bags at a transit center days before their flight.

Both said they wanted to balance job creation, especially for minority-owned businesses, with environmental sustainability. And they committed to ensuring transparency as the Port gears up to spend billions on expanding the airport and oversees  construction of a cruise-ship terminal near Pioneer Square.

But they had very different bases of support.

The son of immigrants, Cho successfully appealed to Asian American voters, even delivering his stump speech in Korean on some occasions. Electing a minority member to the all-white Port Commission, he said, was important to ensure representation for the Port’s many minority stakeholders.

Degginger, meanwhile, was backed by some large businesses — including airlines and cargo offloaders doing business with the Port — and King County Executive Dow Constantine and some current Port commissioners. His campaign emphasized his experience overseeing large government contracts, including his role in replacing the SR-520 bridge and helping to bring light rail to Bellevue.

Felleman, who ran on his history of championing environmental causes, faced a challenge from the left in newcomer Jacobson. Jacobson, who previously served as the general counsel to Montana’s secretary of state, declined to accept any donations or endorsements, saying that to do so would compromise his integrity if elected.