In the high-profile race for Seattle City Council’s Position 9, Sara Nelson had a strong 21 percentage point lead over Nikkita Oliver in Tuesday night returns. Nelson had just over 60% of votes counted.

Meanwhile, in the less-watched Position 8 race, incumbent Teresa Mosqueda was ahead of Kenneth Wilson by only 5 percentage points despite a huge fundraising advantage. Mosqueda had 52% of the vote to Wilson’s 47%.

“Wow,” said Nelson, hearing the results in her race among supporters at The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar. She raised a thumbs up.

“After talking to people across this city … one thing was constant,” Nelson said. “People were sick of the status quo and they wanted change.” In particular, they want a functioning council, she said, even if they don’t agree on solutions.

“Whoever’s in this position is going to have to be focused on bringing people together, and burying the hatchet and representing everyone in Seattle,” she added.

Oliver, reached by phone at Washington Hall while spending time with close friends and wrapping up a campaign event held earlier in the day, said they thought they could “absolutely” make up the difference after earning 39% of the vote.

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Oliver, who uses they/them pronouns, said they were counting on later voters leaning left. Oliver would need 59% of remaining ballots to overtake Nelson.

“I think conservative voters vote early and I think communities that struggle with a lot — housing, health care, employment, all the things happening around the eviction moratorium — have a lot more things on their minds, and we tend to vote later,” Oliver said. “We know statistically as we get farther down the line these larger drops are going to be more for us.”

Council President M. Lorena González left the citywide Position 9 seat open when she decided to run for mayor. The contest presented something of an existential choice for voters. Oliver and Nelson called for different kinds of change at a time when Seattle is trying to recover from the pandemic, respond to demands for racial justice and find solutions to increases in homelessness and violent crime.

Oliver, an executive director of a nonprofit, lawyer and prominent anti-racism activist, advocated policies to lift marginalized communities. They had 39% of Tuesday’s initial vote count.

A resident of Rainier Beach and a former mayoral candidate, Oliver, 35, advocated ending restrictions on apartments in single-family neighborhoods throughout Seattle. Oliver also called for finding new revenue, like a possible city income tax, to create housing for homeless people while providing those in encampments with services like hygiene stations. Oliver also has pushed to defund police by 50%.

Nelson, 55, co-founder of Fremont Brewing and a onetime aide to former City Councilmember Richard Conlin, argued the council is on the wrong path, diverted from providing basic services by left-wing movement building.

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Living in Green Lake and running for the council for the second time, Nelson promoted helping small businesses recover from the pandemic, gradually increasing density in single-family neighborhoods and removing homeless encampments in public spaces with a phased approach. She said she wanted a plan, more accountability and better data on homelessness before committing to new revenue. She also opposed defunding police.

Oliver espoused addressing root problems to societal problems; Nelson said she would focus on “problems we can solve right now.”

Nelson’s supporters included various small business owners, former Gov. Gary Locke and firefighters and building-trades unions. Many shared her dissatisfaction with the present council, especially its failure to stem rising homelessness and the proliferation of encampments.

Nelson also won the backing of longtime police accountability advocate Harriett Walden, among others, who said she worried about defunding the Seattle Police Department. A spike in shootings is hurting people of color, Walden said, and even enacted cuts hamper the department’s ability to deal with it.

Oliver’s supporters — including progressive leader U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay and the Martin Luther King County Labor Council — pointed to the candidate’s work in the community and was seen by some as closer to the needs of everyday workers and people of color.

As of Monday afternoon, Nelson was ahead in fundraising by more than $140,000, for a total of roughly $573,900. Independent expenditures for Nelson and against Oliver ran to about $500,000, while less than $90,000 for Oliver and against Nelson.

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The fundraising totals in the Position 8 race, also for a citywide seat, were far more lopsided. Mosqueda raised about $277,000; Wilson, an engineer and political novice, roughly $98,000.

Mosqueda, 41, is the architect of the “JumpStart Seattle” payroll tax, chairs the council’s housing and budget committee and last year agreed with calls to defund the police by 50%, though cuts ultimately amounted to much less.

Wilson, 51, like Nelson, hoped to ride frustration with City Hall, including over encampments, police defunding and the shutdown of the cracked West Seattle Bridge, which he said should remain open while repairs are made. He had 47% of Tuesday’s vote count.

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Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Lindblom and Sydney Brownstone and data journalist Manuel Villa contributed to this report.