Sawant takes lead over Orion in Seattle City Council race with Friday vote count

Nov. 8, 2019 at 3:41 pm Updated Nov. 8, 2019 at 5:32 pm (

Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks to supporters on election night after early results showed her trailing by a significant margin. As vote counting has continued, Sawant has taken the lead over challenger Egan Orion.
 (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks to supporters on election night after early results showed her trailing by a significant margin. As vote counting has… (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times) More 
Daniel Beekman

 By Daniel Beekman Seattle Times staff reporter

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 to Orion by a wide margin on election night.

The District 3 incumbent’s share is now 50.5%, up a sensational 5 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 election-night results were based on about 50% of ballots. Close to 90% 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 more than a year ago vowed to use the 2019 elections to reshape the council.

Sawant gained a lot of ground Thursday, watching her share climb from 45.6% Tuesday to 48.6%, and ballots tallied Friday afternoon have put her over the top. King County Elections is scheduled to add most of the rest of Seattle’s votes with a Friday night count.

There are about 5,000 votes that have yet to be tallied in District 3, according to ball0t-return statistics. Sawant is up 513 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 have left-wing politics.

Turnout has reached nearly 59% 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 over 54%.

None of Seattle’s other races saw candidates change position Friday afternoon, 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 46.2%, 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.

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.

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

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