Another election, another late surge for Seattle’s progressive candidates

Aug 10, 2021, 5:48 AM | Updated: 11:33 am

Nikkita Oliver, progressive candidates...

Seattle City Council Candidate Nikkita Oliver. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

As consistent a tradition as any in Seattle elections, progressive candidates in this year’s primary election have seen a significant surge in ballots tallied since last Tuesday.

Seattle voters split down stark political lines in early primary results

The tendency for races to see a leftward shift in post-election-night tallies has been far from uncommon in Seattle elections, driven largely by a penchant for progressive voters to turn in their ballots closer to Tuesday’s deadline (and thus have their votes tallied later than their early voting counterparts). We saw that in 2019’s election cycle, after Councilmember Kshama Sawant trailed challenger Egan Orion by eight points in initial results. A week later, Sawant had closed that gap and then some, going up by four points (54% to 47%), and eventually winning reelection to her District 3 seat.

A nearly identical situation has played out during 2021’s primary across numerous races.

In the mayoral primary, former Council President Bruce Harrell held a 10-point lead over exiting Council President Lorena Gonzalez on election night. That gap has since narrowed considerably, with Harrell now holding a slim 34% to 32% advantage.

It’s been the same story in the race to fill Gonzalez’s soon-to-be vacant Position 9 council seat as well. Last Tuesday, early returns showed Fremont Brewery co-founder Sara Nelson leading progressive activist Nikkita Oliver by a 42% to 34% margin.

Now a week later, Oliver has overtaken Nelson entirely to take a 40% to 39% lead, with the general election likely coming down to whomever of the two can successfully court the 13% of voters that supported third-place candidate Brianna Thomas in the primary. Given that much of Thomas’ support has come from prominent local progressive leaders, Oliver could be well-positioned to slice off a large portion of her supporters come November.

See all local election results

The race for Seattle City Attorney has seen perhaps the most compelling narrative of any race play out, with 12-year incumbent Pete Holmes conceding last Friday. With Holmes in a distant third, self-described abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy closed a two-point election night gap between her and Republican Ann Davison to eventually open up a four-point lead.

While margins remain slim between top-two candidates in almost every race — excepting incumbent Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s sizable 59% to 16% lead — November’s election narratives are far from solidified. Ballots for the general election will be mailed out Oct. 18.

Questions, comments, or feedback? Follow Nick Bowman on Twitter at @NickNorthwest to weigh in, or reach him by email at

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Another election, another late surge for Seattle’s progressive candidates