Seattle’s socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant declared victory Saturday after later vote tallies powered her dramatic comeback. She trailed by a large margin on election night before passing challenger Egan Orion on Friday.
The District 3 race, which Sawant is almost certain to win, attracted national attention in recent weeks as business interests poured money into the contest, coming to signify for some a referendum on the influence of companies like Amazon over the Seattle City Council.
Amazon routed $1.5 million through the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s no-limit political action committee (PAC) to combat Sawant and other candidates. The PAC spent nearly $450,000 backing Orion.
“It looks like our movement has won, and defended our socialist City Council seat for working people against the richest man in the world,” Sawant said at a news conference Saturday in Seattle, taking a triumphant swipe at Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Orion could not immediately be reached Saturday.
When the first tranche of votes was released Tuesday, Sawant trailed Orion by nearly 8 percentage points.
As more ballots were counted, she rapidly gained ground. More progressive candidates have tended to do better among Seattle voters who drop their ballots closer to the voting deadline.
By Thursday, she was threatening Orion’s lead. On Friday, she surged past him. She currently leads Orion with 51.6% of the vote.
At the Saturday news conference, Sawant said her immediate priority will be to pursue rent control — which is banned under state law — and institute a “strong tax” against businesses such as Amazon to fund affordable housing and other services.
Fewer than 1,000 ballots are estimated to still be tallied in District 3, according to King County Elections. Sawant is up 1,515 votes.
Turnout in the district, which covers dense neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill and the Central District and more suburban areas such as Montlake and Madison Park, has reached 57.6%. 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 on Thursday.
Staff reporter Daniel Beekman contributed to this report.