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Kshama Sawant trails Seattle City Council race

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 5, 2019

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant speaks at City Hall on June 12, 2018, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant speaks at City Hall on June 12, 2018, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
By Daniel Beekman Seattle Times

Two of three incumbent Seattle City Council members were positioned to win re-election to their district seats in Tuesday night results, but polarizing socialist Kshama Sawant was trailing in her race against a business-backed challenger.

Lisa Herbold was ahead with 51% against Phil Tavel and Debora Juarez was up with 57% against Ann Davison Sattler, while Sawant was behind with 46% against Egan Orion.

Many more ballots will be counted in the coming days and the more progressive candidates tend to gain ground as additional votes are tallied, so Sawant may be able to close the gap in her contest.

Supporters in the Central District initially met the results with muted tones, then cheered as Sawant promised to battle on.

“We are going to have to continue to fight to make sure every vote of disenfranchised people gets to count,” Sawant said.

At a party on Capitol Hill, Orion told boisterous supporters his numbers looked good but added a warning.

“We’re just under nine points ahead,” the small-business booster and LGBTQ community leader said, as the crowd roared. “However, Kshama has a distinct advantage with those late voters.”

In Seattle’s four other council contests, Tammy Morales, Alex Pedersen, Dan Strauss and Jim Pugel were ahead in the early results. Morales and Pedersen were up by larger distances, while Strauss and Pugel led by smaller margins.

The ultimate outcome of this year’s clash between Seattle’s left wing and its corporate titans is not yet certain because candidates supported by service-worker unions and social-justice advocates are poised to win several races, while their pro-business opponents could prevail in others.

But a union-backed group was declaring victory, arguing the results showed voters choosing to bolster the council’s “progressive majority.”

“Seattle voters are delivering an unmistakable message to giant corporations near and far: Our democracy is not for sale to the highest bidder,” said Rachel Lauter, executive director of Working Washington.

In contrast, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce was taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Tonight’s initial returns are not definitive enough to call these close races. We know from our polling that voters want more solutions and less ideology from their council members,” Chamber president Marilyn Strickland said in a statement.

The elections could prove pivotal for a city still deciding how best to grow and who should pay for the consequences. A historic economic boom powered by Amazon’s transformation from bookseller to tech and retail behemoth has shaken Seattle in recent years, helping many people prosper while leaving others behind.

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