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Saying Amazon cash handed Sawant the race, Orion concedes

From Orion’s kitchen table concession statement video

The latest drop from King County Elections only included around 600 District 3 ballots but Egan Orion’s view of Kshama Sawant’s claim to 66% of them was enough. Tuesday night, Orion followed Sawant’s weekend declaration of victory with a concession of the district’s race for the Seattle City Council.

As of Tuesday’s count, Orion trailed the incumbent by 1,700 votes and four percentage points, losing 47.8% to 51.8%. D3 turnout is near 60%.

In a video statement on the end of his campaign, Orion thanked supporters and described the final days of the election as a lost opportunity where the campaign’s massive influx of PAC spending cost him the race.

“I personally walked every precinct of District 3 and talked to thousands of voters at doorsteps, forums, fundraisers, coffee chats, and on the street,” Orion said in the video. “You responded by giving me your time money and support for change in this year’s election. You made this race worth ring clearly you love this city and want the best for it. Unfortunately, when Amazon dropped over a million dollars into the city council races just as ballots were sent out, our closing arguments were completely subsumed by national media attention with candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren chiming in on local city council races. What had been a clear lead for my campaign became a much closer race than anyone expected.”

It’s not clear that Sawant’s victory truly was the turnaround story Orion portrayed in his concession video but it was clearly powered by a strong get out the vote effort and significant late voter surge as the incumbent laid to waste her challenger’s brief Election Night lead with a six percentage point flip that has put her on top with a four-point lead..

Orion said last week that the massive outlay of PAC spending from the downtown chamber and efforts from the likes of Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks to back “pro-business” candidates had backfired. The “Amazon bomb,” he said, “played right into Kshama’s hands.” Orion campaign manager Olga Laskin said the backlash “reignited” Sawant’s campaign.

But the cash also powered a powerful campaign effort. Orion raised more than $400,000 in contributions while Sawant eclipsed his totals with a showing exceeding $520,000. But support from the downtown chamber and Amazon coalition pushed Orion financial support into a new stratosphere with more than $600,000 in PAC cash also flowing into the race to make the 48-year-old a million dollar-plus competitor. The cash flow resulted in an Orion advertising, mailer, and flyer blitz through October while the Sawant campaign mostly played the long game with a majority of its spending going to support a relatively huge campaign payroll.

Orion, with his experience working with small businesses on Capitol Hill, raised public safety issues through the prism of every day challenges during the campaign. He touted his work to bring city homeless outreach resources back to Capitol Hill to give businesses someone to call besides police about day to day homeless, addiction, and mental health issues around the neighborhood’s Broadway core. While he called sweeps inhumane, Orion also voiced support for cleaning up the city. Sawant, meanwhile, focused on larger issues of accountability and bias. Sawant also repeatedly spoke out against sweeps and has been a lone voice calling for the defunding of the Navigation Team charged with sweeping out illegal encampments.

While Orion attracted many voters opposed to Sawant’s more radical positions and the criticism of her sometimes caustic approach to politics, his campaign was also dogged by a series of small but well-covered ethics complaints.

Sawant’s work on issues close to the Socialist Alternative movement also won attention, supporters, and, yes, critics through the summer including a high profile push to save the Showbox, heavy involvement in tenant issues at the Central District’s Chateau Apartments, and an effort to push back on displacement of 12th Ave Ethiopian restaurant, Saba.

“Our movement has won our socialist office, for working people,” Sawant said Saturday morning as she declared victory. “The election results are a repudiation of the billionaire class…and the relentless attacks and lies…and working people have stood up and said Seattle is not for sale!”

“Working people, people of color, young people, came out in huge numbers to vote by overwhelming majority for our socialist politics and against this attempted hostile corporate takeover,” Sawant said.

In his video, Orion said he remained concerned about the influence of Socialist Alternative in the district and called on his supporters to “hold the incumbent accountable” amid “four more years of reckless policies that cost the city millions and legal fees and settlements” and “more division than ever.”

Sawant, now set to begin her third term, will become the senior member on the council with Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, and Sally Bagshaw opting not to run for reelection. The backlash to the Amazon cash also helped Sawant secure key new allies — her fellow council members. The council’s two citywide representatives — Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González allowed bygones to be bygones and moved beyond past criticism and distancing from Sawant to embrace the Socialist Alternative leader and a slate of progressive candidates facing chamber and pro-business opposition — Lisa Herbold in D1, Tammy Morales in D2, Shaun Scott in D4, Dan Strauss in D6, and Andrew Lewis in D7.

Herbold, Morales, Strauss, and Lewis will also join Sawant when the new council convenes in January.

Sawant, meanwhile, is already back to work, gathering supporters for a “People’s Budget” rally supporting social justice and tenants Wednesday morning before the council’s budget session.

Orion, 48, seems likely to remain active in the district. He remains head of the Broadway Business Improvement Area and PrideFest. 


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45 thoughts on “Saying Amazon cash handed Sawant the race, Orion concedes

  1. Wait – so a corrupt and incompetent tool is handed every advantage by the even more corrupt Seattle business community, then when he *still* can’t pull it off he blames it on what that his corrupt friends did for him?!? What a weenie.

    • First off, Orion stated the Amazon cash was NOT an advantage, and said it was hurting him – during the election, after the election when it appeared as if he would win, and after the election when he lost. So, characterizing those comments as coming from a “sore loser” is not informed by facts or reality. //

      Second: you anarchist kiddos have been telling everybody how terrible this corporate Amazon cash was, and why voters should vote against the candidates who were backed by it… then, low and behold, people listened, agreed with your perspective, and accordingly voted against Amazon influence AS YOU ASKED THEM TO… but now you’re saying your tactics had no effect? Talk about disingenuous. / /

      Third: if you want sore loser, look no further than your cult leader Sawant’s comments on election night in 2013, when she thought she had lost: “Richard Conlin is finished. He may collect his salary for another two years, but he has no political future” Now THAT is the language of a petty, sore loser.

  2. wow, gaslight much Egan? Sawant has always won on the last days of vote counting … but you go ahead and blame Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amazon for your loss. Bet that’s the first time anyone’s blamed those 3 for the same outcome.

  3. Where was his repudiation of Amazon money throughout the campaign? And would he have disavowed their attempt to buy the election had he won? What a disingenuous concession.

      • He also gave a speech on election night, and I don’t remember any mention of Amazon. In fact, a chief Amazon lobbyist was at his election night party. From The Stranger: “Orion notably forgot to thank Guy Palumbo, a former State Senator and current Amazon lobbyist who was hunched over a tall table looking at his phone shortly before the results were announced. Though Orion raised less money than Council Member Kshama Sawant, PACs spent 600 times more on Orion’s campaign than they did on Sawant’s.” https://tinyurl.com/yglsuos2

    • He actually made several statements about that Amazon cash during the election. He complained that it was overwhelming his message. He could not refuse the Amazon PAC cash because his campaign did not receive it. That cash is spent without his authority and is beyond the control of his campaign. I assume the commenters here understand that, and that some are aware Egan made numerous statements against PAC spending in this election,but it certainly is not apparent from the comments.

      • “Amazon PAC cash because his campaign did not receive it.”

        He applied for the funding, and he got it. It’s what pushed him past Dewolf in the primary.

      • You don’t apply for PAC spending. It is an independent expenditure gathered and controlled by those who run the PAC. I am not sure what funds you are referring to when you say he applied for the funding and got it.

      • “He actually made several statements about that Amazon cash during the election. He complained that it was overwhelming his message.”

        No — he was complaining that the rightfully-negative *media coverage* of the cash dump was “overwhelming his message.” He wasn’t complaining about the actual corruption itself. Subtle but important difference.

  4. Wow. That concession speech makes me curious to see if I can order the world’s tiniest violin from Amazon and have it delivered same-day.

  5. Despite the distorted views of those commenting before me, Egan’s video did give a valid assessment of this District 3 election. He has actually been a class act during this campaign. It is unfortunate that Sawant was successful in turning the election into an “Amazon or me” choice, rather than allowing the discussion to be a referendum on her previous 2 terms representing District 3 on the City Council. The current City Council, for example, has created a city in which a beloved locally owned downtown drug store is closing due to the city’s tolerance of extreme uncivil behavior in our retail district. I’m saddened to feel that this election may well produce 4 more years of the same. I am concerned about our district’s representation being highjacked by an East Coast based political party.

    • Exactly @JerryL

      Sawant received 45% of her record breaking fundraising from out of state interests. Only 23% from D3.

      And she has openly declared, as part of her ethics lawsuit, that she is beholden to whatever the east coast cabal tells her who to hire, how to vote, and what to say. And not her constituents.

      Why isn’t CHS or The Stranger even mentioning those facts?

  6. Ooh, an Orion fan afraid of the woman of color “hijacking.” This is the kind of “class act” voter Orion’s nativist campaign was eager to attract from the start. I’m so glad we district voters waved their candidate off. Egan’s a middle-aged cis white man who’s tied his fortunes to handwringing conservatives like the Bartell and Spady families, so he will be funded again next round. But we’ll be ready.

      • Hee hee! I am one, and have voted for them, and still sometimes have to: we are not uncommonly found running for elected power. Sometimes folks with our immense privileges work to set them aside in order to make themselves useful, and if the alternative is worse I will gladly vote for them: Inslee, Constantine, McGinn, etc. Sometimes they are instead like Mr. Orion, and I am happy to poke fun at their phoniness.

      • You can certainly poke fun at his perceived phoniness without making it into a race and gender thing. You think he is phony? Great, say you think he is phony. Nothing wrong with that. But why bring up his race, etc., unless you think it is relevant to your decision?

  7. • He applied for the PAC money
    • He got the PAC money
    • He beat Dewolf in the primary because of the PAC money ($300k+ at that point?)
    • That PAC money basically funded his entire ground game with nearly $30k/week for paid doorknockers to compete with the ‘army’ of progressive Sawant volunteers.
    • PAC money did the ‘dirty work’ of his campaign and bought a barrage of attack ads to tar Sawant, even in districts where she wasn’t the candidate by attempting to make her the symbol of council dysfunction.

    All of this happened **before** the ‘bomb’ and without a single complaint from Orion. Did Amazon make a tactical mistake in donating a large, headline-ready lump sum? Probably. But it’s incredibly disingenuous for Orion to suggest that PAC spending *lost* him the race. Without that corporate support he wouldn’t have even been in the race in the first place. Basically he’s saying that his campaign was doomed from the onset.

  8. Sincere question: when and how did Orion apply for PAC money? If such a process does indeed exist, is it on a per-PAC basis (i.e. he had to fill out separate applications to CASE, People for Seattle, Seattle Fire Fighters, etc.)? I had no idea a candidate had to apply for independent expenditures.

    • You’re asking a sincere question of a very insincere ideologue (DogPark) No, it’s not legal for candidates to communicate with independent expenditure campaigns or PACs, let alone “apply for PAC funds” Hard to tell whether DogPark is lying on purpose, or simply clueless about obvious campaign funding laws.

      What’s funny is that this person just helped re-elect a city councilwoman who has ZERO interest in things like… parks. Or sidewalks. Or basic city services. She is too busy fighting international capitalism to bother herself with dog parks, let alone return an email or phone call from a constituent.

      • The Stranger link you provided takes you to Orion’s CASE questionnaire that was submitted prior to the primary election. That was well before Amazon committed funds for the general election. The questionnaire was just that: a questionnaire of candidates’ views on issues. It was not an application for a financial grant.

      • Oh come on–it’s not like there’s “no reason” why CASE produces a questionnaire and all the candidates who want money just “happen” to answer it. Around the city all sorts of organizations (eg the Urbanist) have candidates who are seeking an endorsement complete a survey, and if a candidate doesn’t care for that organization they don’t bother completing it. CASE is no different–if you want their support, you apply for it by completing their questionnaire with the aim of showing how you’ll be the candidate most in line with their aims and values. That’s why progressives Nguyen and Dewolf politely declined to fill it out (and it probably cost Dewolf the primary), and why the thought of Sawant filling it out is a ridiculous joke.

        Call the “survey” what it is: an application for PAC money.

      • Money isn’t the only reason to fill out such questionnaires. Endorsements are really important; the more a candidate can list in the voter’s pamphlet the better.

      • CASE is literally a PAC. Spending money on candidates who will advance their interests is what they do. To say that Orion could be oblivious to the reality of the situation would be insulting to him, and like I pointed out earlier, he certainly didn’t seem to mind reaping the benefits the whole way through–where was the denounciation of the money spent to help him beat Dewolf after the primary? The disavowal of the astroturfers canvassing the district as if they were real volunteers? Yes the million dollar “bomb” generated such bad press that it forced some vague statements against corporate spending after much of the money had been spent, but the reality is that without that support Orion wouldn’t have been in this race. That’s why despite blaming Amazon for his loss, the strongest thing he had to sy about the decision to apply for PAC funding was that it would have been “a big question mark” for him had he the opportunity to do the race over for him. (https://www.kuow.org/stories/shadow-of-amazon-egan-orion-wishes-amazon-hadn-t-funneled-big-bucks-to-his-campaign).

  9. I recently had two friends – both of whom work for Amazon – tell me they voted for Sawant based solely on the campaign spending issue, despite the fact neither of them agree with her politics. In fact, one of the two stated they cannot stand her personality, style OR politics. Yet, both voted against Orion, mostly because he didn’t know much about him and assumed he had SOLICITED the Amazon cash. I would imagine many of these “just moved to Seattle” voters used the same level of ignorance to help elect Sawant.

    • What is completing the survey if not a “solicitation”? It’s not like Orion, the head of the local chamber, just “happened” to get the money. Sure, after he started getting dragged in the mud for it, he some vague and middling criticism of heavy spending, but he never demanded the spending stop, that the astroturfers stop doorknocking, or demand action in any way.

      PACs are an insidious assault on democracy, and it’s senseless to think that a candidate could apply for PAC money, reap its benefits, and yet not be held accountable in the public discourse for that patronage

  10. Some of the comments on here are silly – candidates should answer questions from the chamber of commerce. PACs operate outside of campaigns. However, correct me here if I am wrong, Orion could have loudly repudiated the pac $ and insisted they not campaign for him.

    I appreciated him running and his concession rings true.

  11. It 100% hurt his campaign. I was one of those on the fence people. I don’t like Sawant and did not vote for her the last time. I was planning on voting for her replacement but did not like Orion either. I was leaning towards voting Orion but the Amazon spending and the 10+ negative Orion campaign mailers I had clogging my mailbox pushed me into voting for Sawant.

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