Kshama Sawant Pushes Ahead of Conlin

The Socialist Insurgent Is Now Beating the Incumbent—Who Already Declared Victory

Kshama Sawant Pushes Ahead of Conlin

Mike Force

Oops! One week after 16-year Seattle City Council incumbent Richard Conlin claimed an election night victory with a seemingly invincible 7.5 percent margin, his socialist challenger, Kshama Sawant, stunningly grabbed the lead. When The Stranger went to press Tuesday night, Sawant was narrowly leading Conlin by 41 votes, 49.91 percent to 49.88 percent.

Conlin's 6,136-vote election night cushion had been dwindling all week as late ballots trended hard in Sawant's favor: Sawant won 49.9 percent of the batch of ballots counted on Wednesday, 54.2 percent of Thursday's batch, and 56.5 percent of Friday's. The Tuesday, November 12, batch continued the trend, going 57.4 percent in Sawant's favor.

With about 12 percent of the ballots still left to count, the margin is too narrow to call the race. But I'm calling it anyway: Sawant wins!

To understand my confidence, you need to understand the way ballots are counted in our all-vote-by-mail elections. Ballots are processed over a six-week period, from the day ballots are mailed, which is three weeks before Election Day, until certification three weeks after. Ballots are generally processed in the order in which they arrive, but with two-thirds of voters procrastinating until the last minute, King County Elections (KCE) eventually falls far behind.

That's why KCE's election night results generally consist of only those ballots that had arrived by the previous Friday, plus a portion of those that arrived Monday. Later batches reflect results from later arriving ballots. So if an election breaks hard for one candidate in the final days, we should see that trend in the later tallies.

And that's exactly what happened in the Conlin-Sawant race, where late voters proved more liberal and discontented with the status quo than their early-voting counterparts.

Part of that has to do with demographics; younger voters tend to vote late and more lefty. Part of it has to do with hard work; Sawant's impressive grassroots campaign had a couple hundred volunteers calling voters and knocking on doors to get out her vote, while Conlin had little ground game at all. And part of it has to do with momentum; voter preferences shift over time, and her surprisingly strong campaign clearly moved support in Sawant's favor.

But whatever the reasons, voters simply broke hard for Sawant, and there's no reason to expect the remaining ballots to break hard the other way.

Yes, a disproportionate chunk of the uncounted ballots are those that need further processing due to damage or voter error (wrong color pen, stray marks, failure to fill in circles). But these are predominantly late ballots, too. And about 2 percent of ballots were challenged due to missing or mismatched signatures; as these are "cured," they get pulled into the tally in no particular order.

But in both cases, these ballots are likely to lean toward Sawant, who drew support from younger, poorer, immigrant, and first-time voters—all groups that tend to have a little more difficulty filling out ballots. (It's the same reason Democrats tend to pick up votes in recounts.) And of the two candidates, only Sawant has recruited hundreds of volunteers to do "ballot rehabilitation."

KCE notifies voters with challenged ballots to fill out and return a signed affidavit so their ballots can be counted. But only about half of challenged voters normally comply. That would leave about 1 percent of voters—nearly 2,200 in Seattle this election—with ballots that will not be counted.

Campaigns can request lists of challenged voters from KCE, but only Sawant has the people power (about 200 volunteers, the campaign tells me) to knock on doors, ask if they voted for Sawant, and then collect the signed affidavit necessary to count the vote. The Sawant campaign says it collected 150 affidavits after three days of canvassing. The Conlin campaign merely sent out an e-mail asking supporters to check to see if their ballots had been counted.

That's already a 150-vote advantage for Sawant in results to come. And while subsequent batches may not trend as hard toward Sawant as her initial post-election surge, there is no reason to expect the final count to swing back in Conlin's favor.

But even a narrow loss would prove a stunning turnaround for Sawant and a shocking disruption to Seattle's staid political establishment. Between Conlin's apparent defeat at the hands of a socialist and the landslide win for district elections, "the world has been turned upside down on the second floor," one city hall insider told me. District elections will put all nine council members up for reelection in two years, while potentially pitting three pairs of incumbents against each other. And facing the prospect of a rematch against Sawant in District 3, which includes the lefty neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and the Central District, Conlin, then the presumptive winner, announced a day after the election that he would not seek another term.

Now it looks like his retirement could begin two years early. The election will be certified November 25. recommended


Comments (57) RSS

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Oh balls. Now there'll be no living with Goldy.
Posted by insufferable! on November 12, 2013 at 5:56 PM · Report this
I would love to see the Stranger have the last laugh on this one! Heck, I'm as old as Goldy, and even I think the city council is geriatric!
Posted by pat L on November 12, 2013 at 5:57 PM · Report this
I would love to see the Stranger have the last laugh on this one! Heck, I'm as old as Goldy, and even I think the city council is geriatric!
Posted by pat L on November 12, 2013 at 6:30 PM · Report this
katrat 4
Wonderful illustration!
Posted by katrat on November 12, 2013 at 6:41 PM · Report this
Apparently they're finally getting to the Roosevelt District vote, where Conlin sided with notorious slumlord Hugh Sisley over the neighbors Sisley has tormented for years. Yeah Richard, density's great so long as it's not in your sedate little corner of the world!
Posted by Norman on November 12, 2013 at 7:23 PM · Report this
Puty 6
Hey! Exciting!
Posted by Puty on November 12, 2013 at 7:23 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 7
who is not psyched? mrs. solomon. :(
Posted by Max Solomon on November 12, 2013 at 7:47 PM · Report this
MrBaker 8
A month before the election I thought she would poll in the mid 40's, but she really hammered home fiscal equity completely lacking, even in "liberal" Seattle.

The only thing liberal in Seattle is the social politics, where the mayor-elect was running against an incumbent that was running to the left if Murray. Murray made an issue about one of the candidates being gay. Social left wing politics in Seattle has been played out.

Economic fairness and structural equity are it, Sawant proves that message is the winner.
Don't know if she can actually deliver on the themes and memes.
Congratulations, the pressure is on.
Posted by MrBaker on November 12, 2013 at 7:47 PM · Report this
Hey Goldy District 3 also has some not so liberal areas.
Posted by Seattle14 on November 12, 2013 at 7:48 PM · Report this
n the plus side, they're gonna have a hissy fit over there at Seattle Transit Blog when the King of Density, Mr. Conlin, gets his developer paid-for-ass kicked out.
Posted by Then she'll get tossed out in 2 yrs on November 12, 2013 at 7:52 PM · Report this
Clearly, voters have had enough with BIG money and entrenched bureaucracy.

The voters said NO to BIG money; they elected Sue Peters, District Elections and looks like Sawant has a chance of getting elected.

We also had Prop 1.

I hope the folks that think they can continue to fund our elections and entrenched bureaucrats are watching!
Posted by Watching on November 12, 2013 at 7:54 PM · Report this
Has the story of a newspaper slurping a politician so hard ever turned out well? For the paper
Posted by fetish on November 12, 2013 at 8:15 PM · Report this
What's the delay between a vote being counted and the KC Ballot Tracker saying so?

I dropped my ballot in the Ballard drop box before Halloween and it's been certified, but not yet counted.

That would be two more votes for Sawant, mine and my wife's.
Posted by LMcGuff on November 12, 2013 at 8:17 PM · Report this
@12 Slurping? Mystery word of the week. Do you mean supporting?
Posted by longwayhome on November 12, 2013 at 8:24 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
@13 and my son's. I agree, Luke, it's insane how they try to pretend they don't realize where the vote is coming from.

It's coming from us.

The Citizens of Seattle.

The ones they sweep under the rug and lie to.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 12, 2013 at 9:07 PM · Report this
south downtown 16
Conlin should move into one of his micro-units and become a hermit...
Posted by south downtown on November 12, 2013 at 9:25 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 17
That drawing fails to capture Sawants giant cottage cheese filled thighs.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on November 12, 2013 at 9:38 PM · Report this
TCLballardwallymont 18
More pointless rhetoric. It's going to be weeks before all the recounts and challenges are done and the election certified. Grab some hot buttered rum, chill out, and wait for it.
Posted by TCLballardwallymont on November 12, 2013 at 9:47 PM · Report this

Nor does it even pretend to show the firm yet quite biteable shell of crisply baked ciabatta surrounding the thighs.
Posted by Bring_Me_The_Head_Of_Marcie_Sillman on November 12, 2013 at 9:49 PM · Report this
@17, class the fuck up.

It would be really interesting to see what happens if Sawant wins. Worse case she becomes the new McGinn, lots of promise but no results. But best cause we see Seattle move more left. As much as I disagree with her hardcore socialist stances (nationalizing private companies), I think most of Seattle agrees with the majority of her platform.

Also to those who say we can't do "rent control" without fucking over all of Seattle, look at Ontario.…

Back in Ontario there was much tougher rules on how much rent could be raised per year, who could be evicted, etc. And development is still booming in Toronto/along the 401.
Posted by j2patter on November 12, 2013 at 11:08 PM · Report this
Goldy, If there are 12% of the votes left to county, that would translate to 25,000+ votes left to count. That is a lot of votes in a tight race. I am going to wait.

I voted for Kshama. I want to shake up the council, too, and I am in my 60's. Nonetheless, I am content to wait.

Thanks for the report. Regarding the comments about Kshama's physical features, it is time for some people to grow up!
Posted by SpikeSmudik on November 12, 2013 at 11:16 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 22

You're saying "class up" to a guy whose response to the massacre of children at Sandy Hook was to sell guns at inflated prices to his fellow Second Amendment loons and cheerfully pocket $5,000 profit. On the bodies of children blown apart with rifle bullets. The whole thing put him in a gleeful mood.

He pretended he was gay to spin a fake story about using his gun to ward off a gay bashing. Now he's saying he's really a straight married guy, and he likes to make gender-normative attacks on "sissies" and judge professional women by how attractive their bodies are to his gaze.

So, no. Cascadian "Five Large" Bacon will never class the fuck up. He is a nasty, nasty piece of work.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on November 12, 2013 at 11:20 PM · Report this
@22 - sorry, I don't follow his posts that much, so maybe "FUCK OFF YOU MISOGYNIST PRICK" would've been a better response.
Posted by j2patter on November 12, 2013 at 11:24 PM · Report this
Mud Baby 24
Frankly I'm shocked by the way that Conlin gradually morphed from a man of the people into a shameless shill for developers and other corporate interests. Hopefully Sawant's impending victory signals that voters are starting to wake up and notice that end stage capitalism isn't working for them.
Posted by Mud Baby on November 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM · Report this
The drawing reminds me of Arod's slapping away the ball tag as he ran the bases several years ago. Conlin has shown about as much ethical fiber as Arod has.
Posted by sarah70 on November 13, 2013 at 12:07 AM · Report this
Sawant is part of the CWI. If you know about them and their history and how they conduct themselves around the world... well then you will know she is one person who means what she says and will not give up the fight.
Posted by Rob P. on November 13, 2013 at 4:36 AM · Report this
Kinison 27
We need a massive red white and blue banner hung over the office of the stranger that says "Mission Accomplished".
Posted by Kinison on November 13, 2013 at 4:41 AM · Report this
Greetings from Inside the Beltway in WashDC. Great reporting, good-looking too.

Kshama Sawant has 2 roles -- action and education. Even if there is enough power to block her actions, teaching us to talk economic injustice and social class discrimination is a big step forward.

Beyond "left" and "right" labels/moves, there is an elephant in the room watching. The elephant consists of all the structural faults -- the steady, structural, always-there biases -- that give some power and wealth, and deprive others of both.

Have fun everybody, we are all cheering.
Posted by HensBestEffort on November 13, 2013 at 5:13 AM · Report this
Kinison 29

Technically a pillow with an image of Captain Planet doesn't actually count as having a son.
Posted by Kinison on November 13, 2013 at 6:36 AM · Report this
seatackled 30

He also claimed to be Jewish, and someone said he claimed to be black at some point. If he's telling the truth about the guns, he'll probably end up accidentally shooting off his fingers soon and be able to type with just one hand.
Posted by seatackled on November 13, 2013 at 7:32 AM · Report this
Two years ago, the same thing happened in a School Board election. The establishment incumbent, Peter Maier, had the lead over challenger, Sharon Peaslee. Day by day, she chipped at his lead, took over and never looked back. She sits on the Board now.

It can be done.
Posted by westello on November 13, 2013 at 7:55 AM · Report this
under districts in 2015 every seat is sort of open. No incumbent shall have been elected by the relevant district. With 88K folks, maybe 90K by then, and some 40K voting in a little local council race, or 30K, if you have a five way primary with five candidates theoretically one can win with about 30% of 30K votes or 9,000 votes. (likely distributions are often like this: 30%, 23%, 17%, 15%, 10% 5% -- you get the idea). Can a socialist win a primary in District 2 or 4 or 6 or 3 in 2015 if winning a primary takes 9,000 votes? Yes. Expect more socialists real soon. *Hopefully this makes the Democratic party wake up and start advocating for working people instead of Vulcan, paul allen and chris Hansen -- and hopefuly they stop with adding on regressive taxes hurting working people. ron sims was wondering "why is seattle whiter ?" in the last census -- it's because minorities are forced out economically! -- our at large council leaders have worked very hard to turn Seattle into a creative class yuppie nirvana called Amazonia -- so hostile to middle and working class folks. Hopefully, this will change.
Posted by Democrats for Socialism on November 13, 2013 at 8:27 AM · Report this
@17 and @ 19 (Cascadian Bacon Bring_Me_The_Head_Of_Marcie_Sillman): it's good to see you think being sexist A-holes is acceptable in this day and age. You are dumb-ass creeps who think they're funny -but aren't.
Posted by X.G. on November 13, 2013 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Mark my words: This is possibly the worst thing for Sawant.

If she wins she will have transitioned from a perfect magical unicorn socialist spirit guide to an ordinary politician who will have to do something and will be held accountable. On the outside she was a valiant agitator, on the inside she will be just another ineffectual schlub.

While her presence will certainly make the city council far more interesting, I'd prepare for disappointment if I were you guys. It would be awesome to be wrong, however.
Posted by tkc on November 13, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Bacon's your typical trolling keyboard warrior who says all kinds of try-too-hard-to-be-funny shit from the relative safety and anonymity of the internet.

If he said half of what he believed (if he even truly believes this and isn't just dialing it up for trolling laughs) in real life he'd get his head kicked in. I'd say the best thing anyone could do is to ignore him but now I'm part of the problem -- I'm wasting bandwidth on even talking about this asshole.
Posted by Soldier of Misfortune on November 13, 2013 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Be Like Kshama

Jeepers! If one socialist can become a city council member, then how about every councilmember a socialist?

Food for thought . . . .
Posted by sgt_doom on November 13, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
If the complaints of "micro-units and urban density" are driving Sawant's voters then good luck to those folks who certaintly are not able to pony up half a mil for a house or $1800 per month for rent. Enjoy your commute from kent.
Posted by rcpmac on November 13, 2013 at 12:42 PM · Report this
Even if Kshama doesn't end up winning, the fact that she's made it THIS close of a race is enjoyable for the discomfort it's causing for the sexist, racist, classist "Sawant Sucks" contingent of paid Stranger trolls.

Perhaps in 2017...Sawant for Mayor?
Posted by AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell on November 13, 2013 at 2:40 PM · Report this
watching from the UK and hoping hard for Sawant. We have had real socialists win elections here and they do what they say. Look at Liverpool City Council in the 1980s. We can change things for the better!
Posted by John Penman on November 13, 2013 at 2:46 PM · Report this
The establishment will "find" enough uncounted ballots to declare Conlin the winner. Same way Gregoire became governor.
Posted by TheBadSeed131313 on November 13, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 41

Imma Irish Jewish Hybrid, and am def not black. Though I did get invited to be a member of Students of Color in college becasue I listed my Race as other: Atlantic Islander

Nothing makes me LOL like a good ol' fashion threat of liberal violence.

You are a grown man who watches young children for a living. That is strange.

I assume pedophiles make a conscious choice to enter a field where they have power over children and long periods of privacy (teacher, priest, babysitter)

Besides it is not my fault that the artist who drew the picture chose to fit Kshama into unrealistic modern beauty standards rather than represent her as the exquisite human being that she is.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on November 13, 2013 at 4:01 PM · Report this
Baconboy, I'm not a liberal, and I wasn't threatening you. Just making a point.

Although if you got the shit kicked out of you I'd probably laugh and laugh hard.
Posted by Soldier of Misfortune on November 13, 2013 at 4:11 PM · Report this
@20:she isn't running for mayor,you troll.
Posted by 5th Columnist on November 13, 2013 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Every city needs far more voting districts(and every county and state also. )
Posted by 5th Columnist on November 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM · Report this
@43, where did you get that I said she was running for mayor? By the McGinn comment I meant that she'd be a liberal outsider that has a lot of hype but gets little down in office. Sorry if you need everything spelt out for you. Might want to look up the definition of a "troll" to, cause my comment was on point, you'd just need to read the whole comment instead of scanning for "McGinn" and start shouting "TROOLLL".
Posted by j2patter on November 13, 2013 at 4:58 PM · Report this
@14: No, I think he may refer to "slurping" as something along the lines of "sticking its collective tongue so far up the ass of a candidate that it comes out the candidate's mouth" ... which would be, in that case, entirely accurate. Actually, I'm happy about the prospect of a socialist active in Seattle politics. Like Ed Koch once said: "The voters have spoken and now they must be punished!" The sooner it all turns "Mad Max," the better ... Hey, it's getting there fast! Yeehaw!
Posted by Political-Entropy-On-Parade on November 13, 2013 at 6:33 PM · Report this
Hey, armageddon would be cool! The poor people in Seattle already know how to get by on nothing. It's the rich folks that will be eating their pets and burning their money for heat. Time to get a boat and find a hideyhole up in the Queen Charlotte Islands and survive quite well on shellfish.
Posted by longwayhome on November 13, 2013 at 7:39 PM · Report this
Check out "The Rise of the New New Left", by Peter Beinart…

It is these two factors—their economic hardship in an age of limited government protection and their resistance to right-wing cultural populism—that best explain why on economic issues, Millennials lean so far left. In 2010, Pew found that two-thirds of Millennials favored a bigger government with more services over a cheaper one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. While large majorities of older and middle-aged Americans favored repealing Obamacare in late 2012, Millennials favored expanding it, by 17 points. Millennials are substantially more pro–labor union than the population at large.

Most striking of all, Millennials are more willing than their elders to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class. According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government. And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.
Posted by eridani on November 13, 2013 at 8:41 PM · Report this
I'm just loving the screeching Chihuahua dogs in the Seattle Times Forums. The Tea Baggists are not yet fully aware that their 15 minutes are over.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on November 14, 2013 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Look ... a silly Kshama Sawant realtime election status checker robot:

It's much better than the KC elections site ... plus making stuff like this is how a nerd like me blos off nervous energy while I wait for a result in this race. I hope she wins -- the council needs it.
Posted by Olof on November 14, 2013 at 2:07 PM · Report this
#40. That comparision doesn't make sense. Dino Rossi wasn't "anti-establishment". A bazillionaire moneygrubber who sells out his own Native American cultural tradition is not a populist outsider.

And a Rossi governorship would have been a tragedy for working people in Washington state.
Posted by AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell on November 14, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
#39. Glad to hear news of Kshama has reached the UK(hopefully, someday you'll get rid of the "K" bit, but that's another discussion).

Some of us here heard about Liverpool council in the Eighties, and also about Ken Livingstone and the GLC, among others. They fought for the people so well and so effectively that their own party, Labour, ended up suppressing them and forcing its municipal wing to stand for nothing. Maybe soon the last dregs of Blairism will drift away and the last Blairites will join the Tories and be done with it(most surviving Blairites in the House of Commons, from what I've seen, are actually to the RIGHT of the Tories).

Like the US, the UK needs a second party.
Posted by AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell on November 14, 2013 at 2:50 PM · Report this
@j2patter:you are a troll(exemplified by your need to have the final word,even after I called your sorry ass out,motherfucker!)And city-council seats don't have the same amount of power as the mayoral seat,you world-clASS political scientist. ---
Posted by 5th Columnist on November 14, 2013 at 5:34 PM · Report this
@j2patter:you posted a false equivalence,you master debater/asshole.
Posted by 5th Columnist on November 14, 2013 at 5:35 PM · Report this
Notice how the Socialist was ignored by the so-called "local" press (because they knew she has a fighting chance),while far less interesting and less-close races got plenty of corpsepirate coverage:had the Socialist not had a snowball's chance in Hell,then the treasonazinal corspepirate media would've given the Socialistic candidate more attention by saying,every time,"Look at those crazy socialists/communists/Anarchists:they are sooo out of touch with Reality!"Pfft!!! Hell,the foreign press has given this race more coverage than KOMO,KIRO,and KONG combined!!!
Posted by 5th Columnist on November 14, 2013 at 5:39 PM · Report this
Kshama means Mercy...All the best..
Posted by crackerz on November 14, 2013 at 11:01 PM · Report this
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