Ten days after a seemingly decisive election day win, incumbent council member Richard Conlin has conceded to socialist challenger Kshama Sawant. Conlin made the announcement at a 5 PM press conference on Friday after ballot numbers released an hour earlier put Sawant in 1-point lead.
Sawant’s improbable win marks the first time a socialist will take a seat on the Seattle city council in at least 100 years (maybe ever); she’ll also be the first Indian American and software engineer-turned-economist to take the post.
On election night Conlin was more than 7 points ahead of Sawant, with a 6,000 vote lead, but Sawant refused to concede the race. As ballots continued to be counted in the days after November 5th, Sawant steadily gained on Conlin. She narrowly surpassed him on Tuesday with 41 votes. By Thursday, Sawant had widened her lead to 1,148 votes, putting the election outside the margin that would trigger an automatic recount.
Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative party, championed pro-worker and anti-corporate causes during the campaign, including a $15/hr minimum wage, rent control, and a “millionaires’ tax.” She pummeled Conlin during several barbed debates, often referring to him as a defender of corporate and developer interests. Conlin has said this would be his last run for office.
Sawant is an economics professor at Seattle Central Community College and was an active member of Occupy Seattle. Depending on how her term goes Sawant could be a frontrunner for Seattle’s new Council District 3.