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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