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DISTRICT 3 GET OUT THE VOTE: phone banking, text banking, and Sawant canvassers vs. Orion canvassers on the streets of D3

Sawant volunteers gathered Saturday in Cal Anderson for “get out the vote” efforts (Image: Vote Sawant)

Phone banking for Orion (Image: Egan for Seattle)

It would be ironic if the uber expensive, cash and digital advertising-infused, about as dirty as Seattle political fighting gets District 3 race came down to an old-fashioned “get out the vote” push but that didn’t stop both campaigns duking it out until Tuesday’s 8 PM ballot deadline from rolling out a busy weekend of action across Capitol Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods.

As pamphlet after pamphlet and canvasser after canvasser spread across the neighborhoods, incumbent Kshama Sawant and challenger Egan Orion continued to draw national attention as they battle in a contentious and costly race that serves in many ways as a microcosm for the rest of the city.

For Sawant, the push meant a Saturday morning rally at Capitol Hill’s Chop Suey with what the campaign said were over 160 volunteers that then spent the afternoon at 20 stations across the neighborhood they see as a hub of untapped voters for their Socialist Alternative incumbent fighting for her political life.

One organizer said that only 13% of the Capitol Hill Sawant supporters they’ve identified had voted just three days before the election.

“There are literally thousands of people out there that we need to reach,” Sawant said Saturday. “Many of our people haven’t voted yet, so this weekend is extremely crucial.”

Orion’s campaign was similarly trying to reach voters on North Capitol Hill when CHS visited its 21st and Union office Saturday afternoon. 

Harrison Louie, an Orion field organizer, sees the neighborhood specifically as an underperforming area for the campaign. That’s why the campaign has been phone banking twice a day from their CD headquarters and occasional satellite offices in Montlake and on Capitol Hill, calling about 1,200 phones each day for the past 10 days. Louie, who notes that no outreach effort will beat the effectiveness of door-knocking, says the contact rate for answers on these calls is about 20%.

The campaign thinks though that having volunteers calling their own neighbors is an effective way to turn out voters for Orion, who jokes to one supporter as they leave the office, “Just a 10 minute break and back to work.”

Louie also says that the campaign is sparingly trying out text banking as well, which he says can allow them to reach 15,000 voters in a day.

Some Seattleites are getting restless though. One sign spotted on a door said “campaign fliers go straight to recycle bin.” Even Louie, a D3 resident, says that the dozen or so pieces of campaign mail he’s gotten in the past couple weeks is “wasteful.”

The ground game has been so robust in this race that Sawant field organizer Greyson Van Arsdale notes that Sawant canvassers even sometimes run into Orion volunteers while door-knocking.

Unlike Sawant’s troops, the Orion camp sees their base in more affluent neighborhoods, like Leschi from which they’ve had an influx of volunteers. Some of the socialist’s team call this part of the “Gold Coast.”

The Orion squad also criticized the Sawant campaign for their geographical focus. They say the opposing campaign has put too much of its focus on Capitol Hill, arguing that many voices — especially people of color in the Central District — are being overlooked by the incumbent with near universal name recognition in Seattle but who still received less than 37% of the primary vote in August.

“We’re not leaving any rock unturned,” Orion campaign manager Olga Laskin said.

As of Friday morning, there had been 1,176 ballots returned to the Seattle Central College drop box in D3 since opening on Oct. 17. Another 474 had been received at Garfield Community Center.

The last few days of the election, the Sawant campaign has been doing all-day voter outreach at Garfield Community Center, Cal Anderson Park, and Judkins Park.

(Image: Egan for Seattle)

The Orion team has been doing sign waving in the mornings and early evenings at busy intersections, like Boyer and 24th — which they hit on Friday — and Jackson and 23rd.

Out of over 74,000 D3 registered voters, under 15,000 have already returned their ballots, as of noon on Saturday. D3 had 34,300 ballots returned for the August primary, so with less than half of that counted just days before the election, the campaigns see these last days of outreach as mightily important with locals putting off voting as long as possible.

Louie says that if the turnout is similar to the primary, that would be a good sign for the Orion campaign.

Meanwhile, Van Arsdale said that low voter turnout could spell trouble for the incumbent’s campaign.

“In a sense, we’re not running against Egan Orion, we’re running against complacency,” Van Arsdale said before Saturday’s rally.

That being said, Van Arsdale argues that Amazon’s recent million dollar contribution to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee turned out a lot of Sawant supporters that were sitting on the sidelines figuring that she would win, adding that the day after that controversial move was the campaign’s biggest day for getting new volunteers.

“It’s visceral,” Van Arsdale said of the reaction to the tech giant’s contribution. When Sawant brought up Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in her speech Saturday morning, one volunteer shouted, “Fuck that guy.”

A few of the volunteers at Saturday’s event were doing outreach on behalf of Sawant for the first time.

Orion and Sawant have raised far more money than any other council candidates this year, bringing in nearly $395,000 and over $500,000, respectively, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. On top of that, hundreds of thousands have been spent independently for voter outreach in support of Orion, who planned to spend Sunday morning at a homeless encampment cleanup.

Louie and Orion say that this outside money has muddled their campaign’s message more than anything, adding that it’s harder to carry out their get out the vote efforts with other groups reaching the same voters.

“Our conversations will be better than people doing it independent” of the campaign, Louie said. “I’d prefer to be the only one calling.” Orion added that he wished his closing message of the cycle wasn’t distracted by the noise around the tech giant’s $1 million contribution to the Chamber’s PAC.

Orion claimed this weekend that he doesn’t disagree with his opponent’s values and posed the race as between “two progressives pushing the city to be better.” At a recent candidate forum, he said, “I’m appalled by the level of money that special interests, whether they be the labor union PACs or big business or otherwise, how much they’re pouring into this race.”

Van Arsdale says that with this much in independent expenditures affecting the race, it’s hard to feel truly confident about the incumbent’s chances. Sawant echoed this point, saying “the outcome of this election is not going to be whose opinion favors us, it’s whose ballots are being counted.”

Election Day for Orion will be mostly about visibility so as many people as possible can see his name before drop boxes close at 8 PM that night.

Compared to the vocal network that Sawant has built in this city this decade, the challenger was at a vast disadvantage in terms of outreach infrastructure coming out of the primary. The campaign has grown from just a few volunteers as they struggled to stand out in an expansive field over the spring and most of the summer to one that has built a volunteer base that they say has grown exponentially since August.

This is a foundation that has allowed them to hit thousands and thousands of voters in the district two or three times over. When asked if he was nervous, Orion held out an unshaking hand.

“We’ve done everything possible, we’ll rest easily on Tuesday.”

More D3 Coverage

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44 thoughts on “DISTRICT 3 GET OUT THE VOTE: phone banking, text banking, and Sawant canvassers vs. Orion canvassers on the streets of D3

  1. “In a sense, we’re not running against Egan Orion, we’re running against complacency,” Van Arsdale said before Saturday’s rally.


    It’s not complacency you’re running against when the incumbent receives only 36.7% of the vote in the primary election.

  2. It’s kind of ironic that the only time Sawant comes to the neighborhood is in the days before the election. Otherwise, she has been MIA as far as representing D3.

      • Oh really? I don’t know what the hell a “sockpuppet” is….I’m just expressing an opinion, which is what this comment section is for.

      • Bob’s been here and commenting long before Sawant even ran the first time…. I can assure you that he’s no-one other than himself…

    • Right? I’m not a fan of much of Orion’s support base, but I tend to think someone I run into with some frequency while we’re each walking our dog has a better grasp on what the neighborhood wants.

  3. Glad it will be over tomorrow. Tired of all of Sawant’s flyers in the lobby of our secure building. The canvassers treating you like dirt if you aren’t her supporter. She doesn’t represent my D3 or anyone else in my building.

    • I’m tired of all the weak, pearl clutching hyperbole from Orion supporters. Everyone’s tired of mailers and the waste. It’s an ignorant assumption to assume who everyone in an entire building is voting for, you simply don’t know. Last time I checked my mailbox the mail carrier had crammed another daily Orion flyer in it filled with misinformation. Maybe you should direct your seething rage at the postal service.

      • It wasn’t the postal service it was one of the Sawant minions coming into the lobby behind one of the tenants and putting all the flyers on our decorative table. Total waste because everyone in the building abhors Sawant and the flyers went right into the recycle bin.

      • Sasha…you want to talk about excessive waste? There are Sawant posters slathered on just about every telephone pole in D3. I understand and support the concept of free speech… but I hope Shama’s supporters have organized for clean up afterwards…if not, all of that propaganda, the posters and the signs, becomes litter.

      • Edward: I think you mention this false narrative almost daily in your comments. It’s getting really old and your outrage about your decorative table being taken over by minions is excessive and laughable.

        Eric: The signage has been excessive by both candidates, but I only see Sawant posters being aggressively torn to pieces and littered all over my neighborhood. But hey, if you support one of the worst polluters in the world (Amazon) stealing out local elections then the litter probably doesn’t bother you. I really hope Orion’s supporters can at the very least refrain from littering in our neighborhoods.

      • Sasha,

        I have had my Egan Orion signs trampled, thrown in the bushes, disassembled, and disappeared, stolen or destroyed on my own property, while SAwant signs two doors down remain undisturbed. I have not reciprocated because I believe Sawant supporters should be able to express their support through legally placed signs, etc. No doubt it is happening on both sides and it is yet another sign of the distintegration of our social compact.

    • At the risk of elevating McCarthyist fears, at least some of your fellow residents are Sawant supporters. But instead of raising your pitchfork, try talking to a canvasser! They’re all volunteers, and all are passionate about the election. Even if you don’t agree, it’s good to talk it out–that’s just how grassroots democracy works, and while it may be inconvenient to get interrupted at home, I think it’s way better to talk to a real human than just take in focus-grouped PAC messaging or whatever.

      • Good advice, which of course applies in both directions. Talk to an Orion supporter. We aren’t a bunch of right wing crazies eager to enable corporate control of our city. I spent thirty minutes talking to a Sawant door beller in my neighborhood yesterday. He worked at Amazon (gasp!) and was a nice guy. I didn’t learn anything new about Sawant positions, but he had a fairly good grasp on them and was a credit to the candidate. I told him I would sooner have him on council then her because he presented the views reasonably and at least seemed to listen. The next step would be willingness to compromise, which was not apparent from our discussion, but nonetheless, he was more impressive than his candidate. So, I listened and exchanged ideas. How about you Sawant supporters out there.

      • they are not volunteers, my neighbor had 2 air b&b guests staying at their place that were from minnesota that had been paid to come and canvas for sawant

      • “they are not volunteers, my neighbor had 2 air b&b guests staying at their place that were from minnesota that had been paid to come and canvas for sawant”

        CD resident, this really needs to reach more people!

        JSeattle, want to pick up it up?

    • Glenn, your ridiculous characterization of what you think may have happened to your yard sign is exactly what I’m talking about when I bring up the exaggerations and lies of Amazon/Orion’s paid troll army. You might as well proclaim your yard signs were torpedoed, dynamited and napalmed because people will believe you just the same.

      • So, Sasha, you are calling Glenn a liar regarding what he reports about his Orion signs. But the destruction of signs and posters is happening on both sides….that is very obvious. I placed an Orion sign on my planting strip and it was gone in 2 days. Then, I nailed an Orion sign higher up on a utility pole at the front of my house, and it too disappeared. Do you want to accuse me of lying too?

      • Sasha,

        I have placed multiple Orion yard signs on my properties. Some have disappeared three times (yes, I replace them), often in as little as twelve hours. Others have been broken into pieces and scattered across front lawns or strewn across the planting strip. And, yes, neighbor’s Sawant signs remained in place.

        I have to say, I am confused by your response. I said it is happening on both sides, and I think that is true. That fact, and your response, are examples of the degradation of our political discourse. I presume you support Sawant because you like her policies and personna, not because you are a paid troll. Please grant me the same consideration. Thank you.

    • My closest intersection is littered with Sawant posters planted by someone who doesn’t even live on the block. I watched her pull up, plant one on every corner and on the traffic circle, and drive off.

      Do you think she’ll be back to remove them when it’s over?

  4. I had a Sawant supporter knock on my door Friday night. We disagreed ideologically on much of the public policy, but I do think it is important to start the conversation from what do we all share as some common ground. I would venture to guess that the majority actually share the same basic concerns and goals, but the ways we believe we should reach those goals can vary.

    I voted for Orion, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to dialogue with this Sawant canvasser. I think I should spend more time talking (read: listening) face to face with people (mostly those with different opinions than me) instead of leaving the narrative to politicians and the media. I don’t think the masses are as divided as we are being told we are.

    • @free’ very much agreed. I’ve been volunteering for the Sawant campaign and have had lots of great discussions with Orion supporters and people who have already voted. I know not everyone will agree with me, but like you said there’s so much in terms of shared values it’s just good to have a real conversation, with a real human. Things get nasty when we stay inside and cloistered reading PAC mailers, and real conversations help everybody to take a step back and have some civility in public discourse.

  5. My girlfriend and I voted for Sawant. So did my parents.

    I will be incredibly bummed if she loses. This election is bigger than just D3. We need people to hold Amazon accountable.

    • That’s sad for me to hear. The election IS about DISTRICT 3 !!! And should only be about District 3 representation. It is not “bigger than just D3”. It’s unfortunate that the Amazon element is influencing people rather that the effectiveness of the those who should be looking out for the specific needs of the district and the city.

      • Sorry you feel that way. I think Kshama does a great job fighting for our district. But our district has a chance to make massive waves in the political sphere. It’s a win-win on both fronts if she’s elected. Orion only cares about corporate interests. Can’t have that for our district or nationally.

      • “ She holds Amazon responsible by imposing a tax on them that goes towards public housing efforts!”

        And *then* they buy their supplies from Amazon? Or do they do that before?

  6. If Sawant loses (which I think she will) there’s zero chance she’ll take her L in a classy way. She will complain and moan about Amazon, etc. But 36% support in the primary leads me to believe she’s on the ropes anyway. D3 deserves so much better. Way past due for change.

    • D3 doesn’t deserve an Amazombie Crony like Orion though…even if you hate Sawant.

      I voted Sawant and would again.

      • Stop being a child, you’re not helping your cause here. It’s laughable that Orion is an Amazon Crony. She’s been a demonstrably terrible District 3 representative. Own that fact, cut the hyperbolic nonsense then you can begin to make a point.

    • I wouldn’t get too invested in that belief, Shannon. I never would’ve believed Reagan would get re-elected, but he did. I never would’ve believed W would get re-elected, but he did. I could (barely) see Sawant getting elected the first time, but never would’ve believed she’d get re-elected again, but she did. And who of us thought The TrumpHole would win? but he did. It’s all about turnout. Sawant’s crew are True Believers™ and are whipped up. A lot of other voters are complacent even if they don’t like her. If they stay home it’ll be 4 more yrs of the S.O.S.

  7. Orion is bemoaning the infusion of PAC money, while at the same time not repudiating it. He could say, “enough – I don’t want this PAC support, stop campaigning on my behalf.”

    He also seems to have done a 180 from his previous position that he would not accept support from the Amazon-fueled CASE PAC – I am happy if the campaign would like to challenge if this quote in the Stranger from May if it is incorrect.

    He is …”not seeking nor will we accept an endorsement from CASE.”

    If he does not keep this promise, how can we trust him on others? We need change in district 3 and I supported Egan during the primary but … I may switch my vote to tell Amazon what I really think of their cash infusion, and for fear that they will control the council.

    • Let’s just say for (ridiculous, speculative) argument, that Amazon really thinks they’ll be able to get Orion to do whatever they want because they donated to a PAC that then gave it to him.

      And then he doesn’t. Doesn’t do *anything* the way they thought he would.

      What, then?
      What do you suppose they could do about it? What kind of “leverage” do you think they’d have over him?
      Did he ever promise them anything? You don’t even know. I’m betting not.
      But let’s say he did. And then he turned around and told them “FU, get bent”.
      What do you suppose they could do, exactly?

      • the fact that he has not done that yet, in fact embraced PAC money after first repudiating it, does not give me much assurance.

        That is the dream isn’t it.

      • So what kind of promises do you think Sawant has/hasn’t made for all the outside money she’s taken? I saw prior articles saying Socialist Alternative’s organization dictates aspects of her platform and even input into her office staffing. Does that give you assurance? Is that the dream you’re buying into?

  8. On our morning relieve the doggies walk we noticed that about 6 Sawant signs had fecal matter strewn on them-or maybe it was chocolate, who knows? In any case, it did make a statement. None of the Orion signs that we saw had been touched and this is in District 3. By the way, Sasha, our table is clean.

  9. I feel like Orion is in trouble. I’ve been confronted no less than 6 times by Sawant’s canvassers walking around on capitol hill in the last 4 days trying to get me to vote for their candidate and to make sure I was registered. They seem to be very successful at getting out the vote considering how many people I saw walking down Broadway just now with their flyers and instructions on how to get registered and to vote today. And their street booths outside of coffee shops, QFC, and the light rail always seem to have a lot of interest. I will be disappointed if she wins again, but at this point it looks highly likely to me that Orion will lose.