Seattle Council’s new Campaign Finance Reform committee takes up Clean Campaigns Act

From the presentation planned for Tuesday’s committee meeting

The City Council’s newly minted Select Committee on Campaign Finance Reform is set to continue the process to build Seattle’s Clean Campaigns Act, a set of legislation hoped to to fight the wave of outside money shaping the city’s elections.

CHS reported last month on the effort led by citywide representative Lorena González who is now also the council president to move forward on three fronts of campaign finance reform.

  1. a ban on foreign-influenced corporations from making any contribution to independent expenditure committees;
  2. a cap on all political contributions to independent expenditures of $5,000 (with the exception of limited contributor committees); and,
  3. new reporting requirements to increase transparency.

A presentation from Tuesday morning’s first session of the new committee is below. Continue reading

Di$trict 3: Can Seattle cut corporate cash from its elections?

Money from outside groups and corporations played an outsized role in last month’s Seattle City Council elections. And nowhere in Seattle more so than in District 3, where challenger Egan Orion was the beneficiary of almost $600,000 in independent expenditures. From the start of the campaign, incumbent Kshama Sawant said she knew money would be the key to the race.

The biggest expenditures were from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee (PAC), but local firefighters chipped in nearly $75,000 and People for Seattle spent over $55,000 in the contentious race to represent Capitol Hill and the Central District.

Independent expenditure spending skyrocketed to over $4 million across the city this year, up from under $700,000 in 2015, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

New legislation is being proposed to fight this wave of outside money. The measure, introduced by citywide council member Lorena González is set to be heard for the first time Wednesday morning. Continue reading

Mapping Sawant’s 2019 win shows continued strength of District 3’s political divide

Sawant again performed strongly in the southwest core of District 3

It was a tale of two districts.

To the east and north were the wealthier homeowners of North Capitol Hill, Madrona, Montlake, and Broadmoor, where voters picked the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce-backed Egan Orion.

Meanwhile, in the more densely populated Broadway and Pike/Pine cores and the Central District, residents sided with the re-election of socialist Seattle City Council incumbent Kshama Sawant.

While the path to victory in 2019 included a dramatic shift from Election Night totals, Sawant’s win, in the end, looks extremely familiar.

To Erin Schultz, a consultant that worked on the Orion campaign, the voting distribution of District 3 looks like what Sawant saw in 2015 as she defeated Pamela Banks for the seat.

“The mapped results are similar to results Sawant has gotten in every election, but we were obviously hoping to close the narrow gap, especially after the Primary performance,” Schultz said in an email. She believes that Amazon’s late $1 million contribution turned the election into a “referendum on corporate influence in elections rather than solutions to addressing homelessness, improving affordability, and the many other issues our city is struggling with.”
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8-1: As county makes legendary victory official, Sawant back to business at Seattle City Hall

Kshama Sawant’s dramatic victory in the race to retain her District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council was formalized Tuesday as King County Elections certified its November 2019 results.

In the end, it was not close. Sawant tallied a solid 4.13-percentage point win over challenger Egan Orion. Turnout across District 3’s nearly 75,000 registered voters ticked in at just under 60%, only a smidge below turnout in Ballard’s District 6. Across King County, voters produced a 49% turnout, well above predictions.

CHS reported here on the Socialist Alternative incumbent’s victory as Sawant overcame historic spending by the business community and large companies like Amazon and Expedia to unseat progressive candidates in Seattle. “Our movement has won our socialist office for working people,” she said. “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!,” Sawant said in her victory speech the Saturday following the election. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

A new leader in D3 race: incumbent pulls ahead — UPDATE: Sawant declares victory: ‘Our movement has won our socialist office for working people’


UPDATE 11/9/19 10:45 AM: In front of supporters and volunteers who gathered for training on her campaign’s weekend ballot “curing” effort, Kshama Sawant declared victory Saturday morning in the race for the District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council.

“Our movement has won our socialist office, for working people,” she said. “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 to hoots and hollers from the crowd.

The declaration shared across her campaign’s social media accounts marked the end of a week of tallying election results made all the more dramatic by daily updates under Washington’s vote by mail system.

In her statement, Sawant put Seattle’s large companies who opposed her on notice that she does not intend to back down, calling her success in the election “as close a referendum on the Amazon tax as possible.”

She also called the vote “a repudiation of the billionaire class, of corporate real estate, and of the establishment.”

Continue reading

Reversal of fortune? Sawant makes big leap with thousands of ballots left to count

Turns out, Kshama Sawant’s late voter surge will come early. In only the second day of updates since Election Night, the Socialist Alternative incumbent massively narrowed the lead of challenger Egan Orion.

The race now stands at Orion, 51.0%, Sawant, 48.6%. While he still commands a two-point, 739-vote lead, Orion is now racing against math — and it is not looking good. Continue reading

Latest count shows Sawant shaving small part of big Orion lead

If economist Kshama Sawant is to, indeed, stage an overtime comeback against challenger Egan Orion, it will start as her previous late surges have — with a quiet, subtle reversal of fortune in the first stages of the late vote counts.

Wednesday’s second release of King County results showed Sawant gaining a small amount of ground on her District 3 challenger — but only by falling short a little less painfully than in her surprisingly deep Election Night gap.

With just over another 3,400 ballots counted Wednesday, the race now stands at Orion, 53.8%, Sawant, 45.8%. The gap is down to a flat 8 points — but now more than 1,900 votes separate the candidates.


Continue reading

Election Night count tallies an Orion lead in the ‘OK’ zone, Sawant trailing but ‘within range’

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

With reporting by Margo Vansynghel, Jake Goldstein-Street, and Alex Garland


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The first count in the race for the District 3 was anything but definitive but challenger Egan Orion opened up Election Night 2019 with an eight-point lead over incumbent Kshama Sawant.

At Orion’s party held at Pike/Pine’s Sole Repair, the early crowd included his family, supporters, and Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg.

“Thousands of voters have talked to me at the doors and they know who I am,” Orion told CHS Tuesday night.

“I know Kshama would like this to be a contest between her and Amazon, but at the end of the day, she’s got me. And I’ve got a really long record of engaging with the community and really getting things done,” he said as someone handed him a BETO for President hat.

“What went well in the campaign? Well, number one that I wasn’t Kshama Sawant,” Orion said earlier in the night before the first count. Orion said he felt only a “9 or 10 point” lead would be really comfortable, given later batches will favor Sawant. 7 or 8 percentage points? That could be OK. But “5 or 6 is like hah,” Orion said, making a distressed sound.

“[Voters] want to see someone that’s accomplished, that’s not too far afield from Kshama and her values and so I think the voters see me as someone that can take those values and get things done,” he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered for the first ballot results with the Sawant campaign in the Central District at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute — the scene of Sawant’s Primary Election Night triumph this summer. When the Election Night results hit, the music stopped and then restarted and subdued conversations began. “Within range, within range,” one Sawant fan reassured another supporter.
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