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Election 2015 | District 3 Election Night Open Thread — UPDATE: Sawant takes commanding lead



With Bryan Cohen, Josh Kelety, and Alex Garland reporting

UPDATE 8:25 PM: The first count on Election Night 2015 appears to give the incumbent Kshama Sawant a commanding lead in the race to lead District 3.Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 8.20.13 PMIMG8385

IMG_8521 IMG_8515Following the first tally, Sawant all but claimed victory as she took the stage at Capitol Hill’s Melrose Studios saying her numbers will climb even higher in coming days.

“Not only have we fulfilled our pledges from 2013, we have had an open socialist reelected,” Sawant said.

“Socialist politics are here to stay.”

“Not the Election Day result we were hoping for,” the Banks campaign said via Twitter, “but a great party and on to tomorrow!”

IMG_8137IMG_8149Sawant’s near victory hasn’t been cheap. She raised more money than any other Seattle candidate — and, of course, Banks was right behind her. Meanwhile, outside interests also tossed in more cash as independent expenditure committees brought some $19,000 plus another portion of a $37,000 war chest into the D3 race. And both candidates courted and won support from District 3 business interests.

Although it was the first election under the new district-based system, Sawant’s victory speech largely focused on what her win represented for working class politics and the socialist movement nationwide. Later, she told CHS that separating the issues facing District 3 from broader social struggles was a false dichotomy.

“If you look at the issues that are most urgent issues in District 3 … it’s the problem with the affordable housing crisis, the problem we have with traffic gridlock and the need for world class mass transit,” she said. “What stronger referendum are you going to find on what the people of District 3 want than the election itself?”

Philip Locker, Sawant’s political director, said the victory was “brought to you by Socialist Alternative” and that progressives Michael Maddux in District 4 and Jon Grant in citywide Position 8 may have won their races had they aligned with the socialist organization.

“(Maddux and Grant) relied on the Democratic Party and we warned it was a losing strategy,” Locker said. “If they are going to challenge the regime, they have to go all in.”

In the meantime, it bears watching whether the leftist groundswell behind Sawant this November will have any carryover in November 2016.

In 2015, the race to lead District 3’s position as the most expensive battle in the city was a dubious distinction. But the battle pitting the “strong activist against city problem-solver” should also be remembered for something decidedly positive: a close contest between two women of color, including an immigrant and a multi-racial candidate. The fact will likely take on more significance for history books than it ever did during the campaign as race and ethnicity rarely came into play. From her campaign announcement, Banks’s challenge to Sawant stayed more-or-less on point: “I’ve learned over my career that you solve more problems with a telephone than a megaphone.” Sawant also rarely, if ever, used her gender or ethnicity to score political points. As exemplified in a speech she gave at a Seattle University protest early on in the campaign, Sawant’s appeal was consistently towards broader social justice: “Sisters and brothers, you and I are a part of history.”

Despite the initial ballot drop putting Sawant a good five points ahead of her, Banks didn’t concede and told her campaign party that the race isn’t over yet.

“We worked hard and we are going to continue to work hard until all those ballots are counted,” she said to cheers. “I’m going to be the comeback kid.” Banks later told CHS that she’s hoping that her personal campaigning will swing the city’s last minute voters her way. “I personally doorbelled 7,000 homes,” she said.

No matter which way the election goes, Banks said she plans on continuing her work at the Urban League and advocating for the Central District community. She said she plans on reaching out to Sawant’s office if the incumbent is reelected to address the Urban League’s issues. “if I can get a meeting with her,” she added, jokingly.

In citywide races, Tim Burgess appeared to be on his way to victory over Grant while Lorena Gonzalez was slaughtering Central District slow-growth advocate Bill Bradburd. Gonzalez will join a Seattle City Council now destined to have a female majority.

Mayor Ed Murray’s $930 million transportation levy Prop 1 also appears to be on track for approval while the Honest Elections initiative appeared to be cruising to a win.

You can view all the King County results here.

Meanwhile, even with King County results included in the statewide initiative totals, the news isn’t good for anybody hoping to hold off Tim Eyman’s latest gambit.

Citywide turnout in the state and Seattle remained weak as of Tuesday night — though D3’s returns jumped more than 10 points to 32.8%.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 8.59.49 PM

Original report: It is time for the truest measurement of all in the most closely watched (and expensive) race in modern Seattle’s most important City Council election ever. Tuesday night, we begin counting the votes. CHS will be with the campaigns of Kshama Sawant and Pamela Banks as the important night plays out. Watch for updates here and on Twitter via @jseattle and @bchasesc. You can also send us a note at with anything you’re seeing or hearing — there are campaign events across Capitol Hill and the Central District. Meanwhile, there are other critically important votes to tally, too.

In the final day of the race, both campaigns were throwing all their resources into getting out the vote in their respective neighborhood strongholds. For Sawant, the target is the apartment-dense heart of Capitol Hill, while the Banks base lies in the outer D3 neighborhoods along Lake Washington.

Neither candidate was at their Capitol Hill campaign headquarters when CHS swung through Tuesday morning. Sawant’s campaign staff said she was busy with budget negotiations at City Hall and would not have any time for last minute campaigning. Banks was tabling and making calls in between other engagements, according to her campaign.

Election Night around D3

  • Banks will take over 18th Ave E’s Tougo Coffee and Bannister (where the “official Seattle Seahawks DJ” will be spinning): Come celebrate with Pamela as we concluded this historic race for Seattle City Council in District 3.
  • Sawant will be at her usual party spot inside Melrose Market Studios: Come join us for this exciting and historic night as we watch the ballots drop!
  • Seattle Bike Blog is organizing a Procrastinator’s Voting Party at Chuck’s Hop Shop CDYou are all invited to join me for a drink. If you still haven’t voted, it will be a no shame zone. You can even get some group advice on your ballot. We will bike to the downtown ballot drop box at 6:30, then head to the Move Seattle party.
  • Yes on I-122 Election Night Party is being held at 11th Ave’s Grim’s and features “Happy hours specials all night”: Seattle is on the brink of a major political milestone that will get big money interests out of our politics and strengthen the voices of ordinary people in government. Join us for a historic election night! 
  • The Yes On I-1401 people will be partying at Sole Repair.
  • The Jon Grant for City Council campaign takes over Bar Sue.

The 10th Ave E house that has served as the base of operations for Sawant and Socialist Alternative was buzzing with volunteers, running in and out to staff tables around the neighborhood. Campaign coordinator Kailyn Nicholson said more than 600 people have volunteered with the campaign this year.

Volunteers have had to use some unique tactics to reach the thousands of apartment dwellers in the district. Nicholson said some volunteers have been using building intercoms to speak with voters. Others were getting dinner-time robocalls from The Stranger’s Dan Savage.

Even if Sawant loses, Nicholson said she feels optimistic that Sawant’s dedicated supporters will continue to grow and strengthen the Socialist Alternative movement in Seattle.

Meanwhile above Little Uncle
The scene was a more subdued inside the Banks campaign headquarters above Little Uncle at 15th and Madison, where a handful of volunteers were working the phones. Registered voters previously contacted by the campaign were each ranked 1-5 based on their support for Banks.

“We’re calling the ones and twos,” campaign manager Joanna Paul, referring to those that “strongly support” and “likely support” Banks. The call list ran into the thousands.

After sign waving at 23rd and Union at the crack of dawn, Paul said Banks took a quick trip to the acupuncturist to relieve a sore back from months of door-knocking. Banks planned to make calls throughout the rest of the day, Paul said.

With no recent polls or exit polling, the campaigns say they are as much in the dark as the rest of us when it comes to predicting Tuesday night’s first ballot drop. Sawant was favored to win coming out of the August primary, where she took a 18-point lead over Banks. The de facto incumbent surged to the top on the primary’s Election Night and her lead only grew in subsequent counts.

Seattle voters aren’t the only ones keeping an eye on Tuesday’s first ballot drop. A documentary film crew that has been following the Sawant campaign will be out all day today. The crew is making a documentary based on the John Nichols book The “S” Word.

Election Night Notes

  • All CHS elections coverage is here.
  • 5 final questions for District 3: model city, transit choices, ‘newcomers,’ design review, home owners.
  • Here’s what to expect from Tuesday night’s first ballot count:

    The first set of election results are scheduled to be posted to the King County Elections website at about 8:15 p.m.

    “Results will include tabulation of about 245,000 of the approximately 300,000 ballots returned so far,” said Sherril Huff, King County Elections Director. “We expect to pick up a large number of ballots from drop boxes tonight, as well as a very large mail delivery tomorrow.”

  • As of Monday night, D3 voters continued to produce the highest turnout in a soft showing so far for Seattle ballot returns:Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 8.18.12 PM
  • According to the CHS District 3 Mood Meter, both candidates are headed into the final stretch with the familiar “neutral” ratings we’ve seen from the first hours of the survey. Among the more than 1,300 ratings cast for Sawant, 42% rated her positively, while Banks nailed a 50% positive rate.Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 4.25.05 PM
  • You can track your ballot or learn about drop box locations here.
  • Need help with your ballot? Here is our round-up of Seattle media endorsements.

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34 thoughts on “Election 2015 | District 3 Election Night Open Thread — UPDATE: Sawant takes commanding lead

  1. Homeowners get out your checkbooks. Holy cow, every property tax is passing and the tax bills in April are going to be HUUUUUUUGE. Shame on the low voter turnout.

    • Yeah… Banks is a right-winger? If you and Sawant believe any such thing means that you have zero interest regular folk… which is majority of the left-of-center people who reside in Seattle.

      • one doesn’t have to be a “right winger” to not look forward to increased property taxes taking a larger bite out of one’s paycheck. some of us didn’t get a raise in pay this year. and believe it or not, we aren’t all millionaires.

      • I haven’t had a raise in over seven years. The fact that we continue to have major increases in property taxes and values that are pushing regular middle income people out of the city doesn’t make us right wingers. It does however mean you are a clueless, wet behind the ears, ideologue classist and partyist.

  2. Unbelievable that such a huge effort by Sawant and Banks only resulted in about 17,000 people voting. That’s pathetic. And Sawant wins by about 800 votes? Hardly a smashing victory given all the noise she makes. Oh well… it’s a free country. People will get what they deserve for being apathetic.

  3. So she gets elected by 8000 of the 63,000 registered voters in the district and the turn out is 25%. This is why Seattle politics is so screwed up. More voters need to do their civic duty. This is how this city has become paralyzed by the left as the developers feed at will.

      • But we aren’t a state, we are a city, and a very liberal city at that. So you don’t even make a cogent point. I am a liberal, but D3 is so far left that they call moderate liberals conservative.

      • My point is low voter turnout can happen in conservative and liberal areas. If there aren’t any exciting issues on the ballot, many stay home.

      • I agree. I’m not the least bit conservative, and it gets really old listening to simpletons characterize anybody who doesn’t swallow this big steaming pile of Sawant-shit as “right-wing”.

      • Actaully most of Europe is heavily socialist as is much of South America. If you mean purse socialism, I suppose it hasn’t been implemented anymore than pure democracy.

      • “Socialism” in Europe is very different than what we think of it here. It is much more moderate, basically left-of-center.

      • Uh, no, you are incorrect. Even conservatives in Europe for the most part are left of center, if you are applying the USA paradigm, and it appears you are. Spain is heavily socialist as is most of Northern Europe. Italy is heavily socialist and France is on the more conservative side but still at that provides heavy social welfare benefits, universal healthcare and a 60% tax rate. So the best one can say is that Socialist is somewhat a nebulous term and “in the eye of the beholder”, but left of center doesn’t even begin to describe Europe. Don’t be silly. You should spend time there or have European friends. It is about as socialist as we could ever imagine.

  4. The voter turnout was pretty pathetic, considering all the super important things on the ballot: Move Seattle, campaign vouchers, and this race.

    There’s really one one solution, though I imagine both red meat right wingers and liberal hipsters will scream and shout “No!”

    Mandatory voting. We need to make it happen. All it takes is a measly $20 fine…or perhaps a tax credit…and we’ll start seeing voter turnout in the 90%s. I’m sorry, but with all good ideas…national parks, Medicare, civil rights, etc etc…we Americans have to be dragged kicking and screaming to implement it.

  5. While I don’t like her policy and did not vote for her, I do urge Ms. Sawant to actually take up the issues facing our district, rather than just using her position on City Council has a megaphone for her city and statewide crusades.

    Additionally, I hope she can build more consensus and agreement with other members. Isolating oneself on the council is not beneficial to anything our district needs.

    • It’s a good suggestion, but Sawant is unlikely to take you up on it. She’s too busy grandstanding and proselytizing for the larger socialist cause, and this is exactly why she will be a useless advocate for our district.

      • Well look– now it’s up to US, right? We need to put-up-or-shut-up. Insist Sawant represent ALL of district 3, and not just the people she’s pandered to thus far. I won’t complain she’s being unresponsive to me unless and until I’ve tried, and she hasn’t. And I haven’t done that yet.

      • Mine is just a prediction, Jim, based on Sawant’s past behavior. I’d be glad to be proven wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

  6. Well, at least that blowhard Grant didn’t win. I’m a traditional pragmatic Seattle liberal, and that guy gave me the shivers. I just wish we had a District 3 representative that wanted to work hard for the constituency instead of their own vanity. I’m always surprised by the power of the cult of personality, especially when the unrestrained egotism is so poorly camouflaged.

  7. And in defeat, the comment thread on CHS continues to stick to its guns, or at least reveal among us who has the time and opportunity (and lack of any other opportunity cost) to rant away. Yadda, yadda, go work harder? Get a better job? Turn that music down!? Pick up your garbage? Stop sleeping on the streets? Stop blocking traffic? This is a democracy, go “do something about it” if you’re so jaded???

    The era of the “pragmatic” Seattle liberal is over.

    There are way more disenfranchised and struggling people in the city, ready to take back their democracy and their lives, than there are you all with your big money, big business, big police guild, big ol’ political establishment-backed candidate. That’s why Sawant won.

    Yes, if I were as cranky and backwards as you, I too would be scared.