Seattle’s City Council elections became all about Amazon the moment the multinational corporation started throwing its bag of money into our local elections. So now that we have our first round of election results, we’re left with a singular question: Did Amazon win the majority it tried to buy?
That answer appears to be a no. Amazon’s money may have bought them another seat or two on the council, but a progressive majority appears to have held, thanks in large part to Seattle’s two at-large seats, which were not up for reelection this year and are held by progressives.
However, progressives who were hoping voters would recoil at Amazon’s unprecedented $1.5 million contribution and elect a full slate of liberals also didn’t get the slam dunk they wanted. Socialists Kshama Sawant and Shaun Scott are in deep trouble, based on these early returns.
One race—between Jim Pugel and Andrew Lewis in District 7—is within 200 votes and too close to even consider calling. But if the other six races hold as they currently are, progressives will still have at least five seats on the council. (When the council's progressive at-large council members, Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González, who weren't up for election this year, are factored in.)
That's a majority, no matter what else happens.
Here are the vote percentages from Tuesday night’s returns:
Lisa Herbold 51.29%
Phillip Tavel 48.32%
Tammy Morales 56.06%
Mark Solomon 43.47%
Egan Orion 53.99%
Kshama Sawant 45.61%
Alex Pedersen 57.78%
Shaun Scott 41.88%
Debora Juarez 57.24%
Ann Sattler 42.28%
Dan Strauss 52.27%
Heidi Wills 47.14%
Jim Pugel 50.32%
Andrew Lewis 49.14%
All of these vote totals should be taken with a grain of salt, as King County Elections said somewhere around half of the county’s votes have yet to be included in these results. Also, progressives tend to vote later and late ballot returns benefited progressive candidates in every single race in this August’s city council primary.
The bright spot for Amazon is on Capitol Hill, where Council Member Kshama Sawant earned only 45.61 percent of the vote and is trailing Amazon-approved Egan Orion by over 1,700 votes. Sawant needs to overcome 8 percentage points to win. If Sawant doesn't overcome that gap with late ballot returns (and that is surely a big gap to overcome) then Amazon has picked off a seat from the council's previous progressive majority.
Progressives do appear to have a solid victory in South Seattle’s District 2, where Tammy Morales is beating Amazon-approved Mark Solomon by over 12 percentage points. District 2 is currently held by the more conservative Council Member Bruce Harrell.
And over in West Seattle's District 1, Council Member Lisa Herbold is holding on to a narrow lead over Amazon-approved Phil Tavel.
In Ballard's District 6, Dan Strauss is sitting comfortably ahead of Amazon-approved Heidi Wills, which is a big loss for Amazon. The Chamber spent over $780,000 trying to elect Wills, yet she is sitting 2,369 votes behind Strauss with late returns likely to make that lead wider.
Council Member Debora Juarez, who has Amazon’s support, looks like she will almost certainly be re-elected in north Seattle's District 5, and Amazon-approved Alex Pedersen in northeast Seattle's District 4 has the biggest lead of the night with nearly 16 percentage points between him and socialist candidate Shaun Scott.
The closest race of the night is District 7, where Amazon-approved Jim Pugel is winning but with only 203 votes over labor-backed Andrew Lewis. Who wins in that race—and it very likely could change as votes are counted in the coming days—may determine whether Amazon and the Chamber hold onto a seat that was previously occupied by the business-friendly Sally Bagshaw.
We’ll certainly be writing about every day’s returns as we continue through this week, so check back on Slog to find the final answer as to how much of the council Amazon was able to buy (and how much it cost them to buy it).