Sawant surges past Orion in Seattle City Council race with Friday vote counts

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As of Friday night’s vote drop, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant had taken the lead over challenger Egan Orion and looked certain to win. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Seattle’s nationally known socialist City Councilmember, Kshama Sawant, has mounted a dramatic comeback in her race against challenger Egan Orion, surging to a lead Friday after trailing Orion by a wide margin on election night. Sawant is almost certain to win.

The District 3 incumbent’s share is now 51.6%, up a sensational 6 percentage points from election night, thanks to a high-energy, get-out-the-vote push and thousands of votes that were cast by Tuesday night but weren’t counted right away. The Seattle election-night results were based on about 50% of ballots. About 97% have now been counted in District 3.

Neither Sawant nor Orion immediately commented Friday.

A win for Sawant would mean defeats in five of seven contests for candidates backed by Amazon and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which long ago vowed to use the 2019 elections to reshape the council. One of the two chamber-endorsed candidates set to win also had support from progressive groups.

Sawant gained a lot of ground Thursday, watching her share climb from 45.6% Tuesday to 48.6%, and ballots tallied Friday afternoon and evening have put her over the top.

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There are an estimated fewer than 1,000 votes that have yet to be tallied in District 3, according to King County Elections. Sawant is up 1,515 votes.

More progressive candidates, such as Sawant, tend to surge in Seattle’s vote-by-mail elections as later ballots are counted. That may be because many younger voters wait longer to cast their votes and because many younger voters favor left-wing politics.


Turnout has reached 57.6% in District 3, which covers dense neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill and the Central District and more suburban areas such as Montlake and Madison Park. Turnout citywide is now nearly 55%.

None of Seattle’s other races saw candidates change position Friday, though many leaders saw their advantages increase. All seven of the council’s district seats were up for grabs this year.

The District 4 contest between Alex Pedersen and Shaun Scott continued to narrow, with Scott closing much of a huge election-night gap. The democratic socialist now has 47.3%, up from 41.9% Tuesday. District 4 includes Eastlake, Wallingford, the University District and Northeast Seattle neighborhoods such as Bryant and Laurelhurst.

Friday’s votes extended leads for District 1 incumbent Lisa Herbold, Tammy Morales in District 2, District 5 incumbent Debora Juarez, Dan Strauss in District 6 and Andrew Lewis in District 7. Lewis trailed Tuesday but passed Jim Pugel Thursday.

No other race is as close as the District 3 contest.

At this point, the chamber’s only leading candidates are Pedersen and Juarez, and Juarez also received support from the business group’s labor union and left-wing rivals.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated voter turnout in Seattle City Council District 3.

Daniel Beekman: 206-464-2164 or dbeekman@seattletimes.com. . Seattle Times staff reporter Daniel Beekman covers Seattle city government and local politics.