A Seattle City Council election that was thought to be a foregone conclusion is suddenly on the cusp of seeing a Socialist candidate either win or force a recount, the Seattle Times reported on Tuesday.
With about 62,000 ballots from King County yet to be counted following the Nov. 4 election, 41-year-old economics professor Kshama Sawant was reportedly ahead of longtime incumbent Richard Conlin by 41 votes, with Sawant gathering 79,751 votes against 79,710 for Conlin.
The Times reported that a recount would be mandatory if the final vote tally shows Conlin and Sawant separated by less than .5 percent of the total votes cast or less than 2,000 votes. But, Sawant has also won 54 percent of the votes counted since Nov. 4. If she gains the same percentage of the remaining ballots, she would win the election outright, capping a stunning comeback.
“I think we have shown the strongest skeptics that the Socialist label is not a bad one for a grassroots campaign to succeed,” Sawant told the Associated Press.
Sawant, who is on leave from her job at Seattle Central Community College while carrying out her candidacy, is advocating raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, funding a local transit system through a tax on millionaires and an increase in rent control to counteract rising living costs. She is the first self-declared Socialist to run for local office since Yolanda Alaniz was defeated in the 1991 general election. Local archivist and pollster Scott Cline told the AP no Socialist candidate had been elected in the city in a century.
“This is new territory. There really isn’t any precedent,” The AP quoted Elway as saying. “You think Seattle has a pretty liberal electorate, but you haven’t seen someone who calls themselves a socialist win.”
[Image via Kshama Sawant campaign Facebook page]