Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant gained a lot of ground in her District 3 race based on additional votes tallied Thursday, and is threatening to catch challenger Egan Orion.
The socialist incumbent is still trailing business-backed Orion, but her share is now 48.6%, up from 45.6% Tuesday and 45.8% Wednesday. More progressive candidates, such as Sawant, tend to surge in Seattle elections as later votes are counted.
Andrew Lewis, meanwhile, moved past opponent Jim Pugel in their District 7 contest, dealing a blow to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s attempt to remake the council. Chamber-endorsed candidates are now leading in only three of the city’s seven races, and one of those is Orion.
Sawant is 739 votes behind Orion, a LGBTQ community and small-business advocate. She took 59.3% of the votes added Thursday.
There are at least 12,662 ballots that have yet to be counted in District 3, according to King County Elections ballot-return statistics.
If Sawant were to take a share of the remaining ballots similar to what she took Thursday, she would pass Orion and win without triggering a mandatory recount. Not even during her 2013 comeback upset over incumbent Richard Conlin did Sawant see such a dramatic single-day upswing.
Turnout in District 3 has reached 58% and is still climbing. Turnout citywide stands at 54%.
Sawant didn’t comment Thursday. A spokesman said her campaign was waiting to see Friday’s numbers.
“Unfortunately this election remains too close to call and it is going to be close,” Orion said in a statement. “We are hopeful our work on the ground will pay off so that District 3 can get the local representation it deserves. Stay tuned!”
Lewis, an assistant city attorney, now has 50.5% against longtime police leader Jim Pugel, up from 49.1% Tuesday and 49.7% Wednesday. He also appears to be benefiting from the usual later-vote swing to the left.
Tuesday’s results in Seattle’s pivotal elections were based on about 50% of expected ballots. Few votes were added Wednesday but a substantial number were added Thursday. Most of the rest should be added Friday in an even larger count.
There were no consequential changes in the city’s other races. All of the council’s district seats were up for grabs this year.
In the weeks leading up to the election, millions of dollars in spending by business- and union-supported political-action committees (PACs) took over the story of the races, splitting the candidates into slates.
The chamber’s PAC spent the most, thanks in part to about $1.5 million contributed by Amazon. But the corporate giant’s money bomb may have hurt the chamber-endorsed candidates as much as helped them, by provoking a backlash among progressive voters. Meanwhile, a PAC bankrolled by service-worker unions and progressive donor Nick Hanauer attempted to counter the business spending.
Besides Orion, the only chamber-endorsed candidates ahead after Thursday’s ballot drop were District 4’s Alex Pedersen and District 5 incumbent Debora Juarez, and Juarez had support from both political blocs. That means a Sawant victory would leave the business group with only one win in clashes between the slates.
At his election-night party, Orion said he thought Amazon’s involvement had actually damaged his campaign.
“We didn’t need any more money in this race. I think it was a big distraction that played right into Kshama’s hands,” he said.
In District 1, incumbent Lisa Herbold extended her lead over challenger Phil Tavel. She now has 53.5%.
Tammy Morales grew her District 2 lead over Mark Solomon. She now has 58%.
In District 4, Pedersen saw his lead over Shaun Scott narrow but Pedersen still has 55%.
Incumbent Debora Juarez enlarged her lead over Ann Davison Sattler and now has 59.2% in District 5.
And in District 6, Dan Strauss saw his lead over Heidi Wills tick up to 53.8%.