For the first time ever, a socialist may just be elected to Seattle’s City Council, overthrowing a 16-year incumbent, reports The Blaze.
Kshama Sawant had a 41-vote lead over incumbent Richard Conlin as of Tuesday night’s ballot count. Although a winner may not be named for days or even weeks, Sawant’s current lead has surprised many.
“This is new territory. There really isn’t any precedent,” said Stuart Elway, a longtime political pollster. “You think Seattle has a pretty liberal electorate, but you haven’t seen someone who calls themselves a socialist win.”
Sawant, a college economic professor and activist involved with Seattle’s Occupy Wall Street movement, ran this year against Conlin, supporting efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15, rent control and tax on millionaires to help fund the public transit system and other services.
“I think we have shown the strongest skeptics that the Socialist label is not a bad one for a grassroots campaign to succeed,” Sawant said.
During her campaign, she condemned economic inequality.
“This is one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest county in the world, she said. “For people to struggle for basic needs is absurd.”
Conlin was elected to City Council in November 1997, serving as council president for 2008-2009 and again in 2010-2011.
There will be a mandatory machine recount if the vote difference is less than 2,000 votes and less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast. To avoid this, either Sawant or Conlin need to win roughly 54 percent of the remaining votes, according to a Seattle Times analysis. Thanks to Washington’s in-mail voting system, the race could go on until results are certified Nov. 26 or beyond.
The last time a self-declared Socialist ran for office in Seattle was 1991, according to The Blaze, when Yolanda Alaniz came in second in the primary elections but was defeated in the general election.
“There were certainly populist candidates,” said Scott Cline, the Seattle’s city archivist. “I don’t think any of them you could remotely call Socialist. Certainly there has never been anybody who has run as strongly as Sawant has.”
As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Savant leads by 83,095 votes to Conlin’s 82,693.
Sources: The Blaze, The Seattle Times, Q13 Fox