Seattle’s 2021 election establishes large, late swings for progressive candidates as new normal

Nov 10, 2021, 5:40 AM
Capital gains tax advisory vote, Seattle vote swings...
(MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

In 2019, many were stunned when Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant turned an eight-point election night deficit into a four-point win over the course of a single week. Now, similar shifts for progressive candidates appear to have become the new normal in Seattle.

Moderate Seattle candidates carry the night, as progressives face steep climb to close gap

Sawant’s 2019 victory ultimately saw her pull off a 12 percentage point swing by the time all the votes were counted. While District 4 council candidate Shaun Scott didn’t end up winning his own race, he made up 13 points, turning a 17-point election night deficit into a much closer four-point loss.

In the two years since, the prevailing theory explaining that phenomena has been a simple one: Seattle’s older, moderate, and conservative voters tend to turn in their ballots earlier, thus allowing their votes to be counted first. Conversely, younger progressive voters turn their ballots in closer to (or directly on) Election Day, leaving their votes to be counted in the final tallies.

The 2021 election further appeared to solidify that trend, with large-scale percentage swings occurring across virtually every major Seattle race.

On election night, moderate candidates like Bruce Harrell, Ann Davison, and Sara Nelson had all jumped out to massive leads over their more progressive challengers. For Harrell, that came in the form of a commanding 30-point advantage in the initial tally, while Nelson and Davison grabbed 20- and 17-point leads, respectively.

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

By the final large tally the following Monday, all three moderate candidates managed to hold on long enough to win their races, albeit with significantly smaller margins. Harrell’s 30-point lead eventually dropped down to a still-sizable but notably slimmer 18 points. Nelson ended up prevailing by eight points, while Davison’s lead was cut all the way down to four points.

When it was all said and done, all three moderates saw percentage swings between 12 and 13 points, representing nearly identical levels to the ground made up by Sawant and Scott in 2019. That’s also despite the fact that 2021 was a citywide election, while 2019 was broken up across individual council districts.

Moving forward, future elections may very well continue to prove that a moderate or conservative Seattle candidate with a 13-point election night lead is ticketed for a photo finish.

MyNorthwest Blog

Seahawks Broncos...
Bill Kaczaraba

How ’bout those Seahawks!?!

The Seahawks season that began with plenty of doubt started with a win over our former quarterback and ended with a playoff appearance.
23 days ago
Tulalip Christmas Lights 1...
Bill Kaczaraba

2023 – The light has just begun, Seattle days are getting longer

We send you into the new year with the winter lights from the Tulalip Casino in Marysville. We wish you a very successful 2023.
1 month ago
happy holidays...
MyNorthwest Staff

Happy Holidays from KIRO Newsradio, Seattle Sports, and AM 770 KTTH!

To close out 2022, everyone at KIRO Newsradio, Seattle Sports, and AM 770 KTTH want to wish you happy holidays!
2 months ago
WWII Veterans...
Bill Kaczaraba

Dad is just one hero on this Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, MyNorthwest editor Bill Kaczaraba remembers his dad who served in the Army during World War II.
3 months ago
Mariners Playoffs...
Michael Simeona

Relive Cal Raleigh’s magical home run that sent Mariners to playoffs

Relive Cal Raleigh's game-winning home run that sent the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
4 months ago
Building Black Wealth Graphic_900x506...
MyNorthwest Staff

Watch: Celebrate Juneteenth with Draze’s third annual ‘Building Black Wealth’

Seattle rapper Draze is hosting a live virtual marketplace on Juneteenth for the third annual 'Building Black Wealth' this Sunday at 9:00 a.m.
8 months ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Seattle’s 2021 election establishes large, late swings for progressive candidates as new normal