Last week, long term incumbent Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin, considered a liberal democrat, claimed victory over Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant by a roughly 53% to 46% margin in a race for a Seattle City Council seat. Sawant ran an unconventional and grossly underfunded campaign with a combination of old and new: a strong group of door to door volunteers and a strong social media presence, and with an uncompromising message: 15$ an hour minimum wage, rent control, and a millionaire’s tax. That she got over 46% of the vote was considered by many remarkable given that she ran as a socialist against an incumbent democrat.
But it gets much, much better.
As the tens of thousands of mailed ballots are still being counted Sawant is gaining ground. As of last Friday she trailed Conlin 50.5% to 49.5% and observers have noted that if the remaining uncounted ballots break as they have been Sawant could actually win.
What’s the lesson here? Even with the dreaded ” S ” word attached to her name, Sawant may well yet demonstrate that a determined and committed group of energized people, holding true to their convictions, can defeat big money, incumbency, and major political party machinery. Stay tuned.