Can progressive candidates surge to prevent Seattle City Council overhaul?

Nov 8, 2023, 12:54 PM | Updated: 2:44 pm

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

The initial batch of counted ballots doesn’t necessarily indicate a definite trend, but does pave the way for a potential philosophical shift within the Seattle City Council.

In this election, moderate and business-friendly candidates outperform their progressive-leaning opponents. Notably, the three incumbents, Tammy Morales, Dan Strauss, and Andrew Lewis, are trailing their challengers.

Read more election coverage: Tight Tacoma City Council races, ‘Tenant Bill of Rights’

Tammy Morales is trailing Tanya Woo in District 2 by a margin of 9 points. Dan Strauss is 2 points behind Pete Hanning, and Andrew Lewis lags behind Bob Kettle by 12 points.

Seattle’s electoral history reveals that younger and more progressive voters provide a surge during the final stages of ballot tallying. This is because they often submit their mail-in ballots at the last minute, in contrast to more conservative and older voters who tend to mail their ballots weeks before the deadline.

So, the question arises: Do these trailing candidates have a sufficient number of progressive votes to bridge the gap? The answer hinges on voter turnout.

Following the initial ballot count, voter turnout in each district varies from a high of 26.55% in District 6 (including Ballard) to a low of 20.71% in District 2 (encompassing much of the Rainier Valley). King County election officials estimate an overall voter turnout of 45% for the entire county.

In contrast, during the November 2020 presidential election, King County elections had predicted a 95% voter turnout, which ultimately turned out to be 86%.

King County did not provide a specific prediction for Seattle’s voter turnout; their estimate was countywide. Assuming a 45% turnout in each council district in Seattle and considering that progressive-leaning voters tend to mail their ballots on election day, Dan Strauss is one incumbent who could potentially seize the lead as the vote-counting process unfolds this week.

Tammy Morales might narrow the gap with Tanya Woo, but Andrew Lewis faces a steeper climb to make up the 12% difference.

Looking back at the first ballot count in 2019, three business-friendly candidates were leading, while three incumbents were trailing their rivals. Only Alex Pedersen, a more moderate, business-friendly candidate, maintained his lead and secured victory in his district.

Kshama Sawant, an incumbent, trailed her business-supported challenger, Egan Orion, by 8 points after the initial ballot count in 2019. However, she ultimately won by seven points, thanks to a well-organized last-minute push by her supporters to encourage people to vote.

Catch up on election numbers: Latest Seattle City Council and other Washington numbers

Maren Costa, a progressive-leaning candidate in District 1 (covering most of West Seattle), faces a substantial 18-point deficit to attorney Rob Saka.

Joy Hollingsworth enjoys an 18-point lead over her challenger, Alex Hudson, in District 3, which represents a significant portion of Capitol Hill and was previously represented by Sawant. Hollingsworth is unique in that she has received endorsements from both business and progressive groups.

In District 4, Ron Davis, a progressive candidate, lags behind the more business-friendly candidate, Mariza Rivera by 11 points.

Cathy Moore is poised to become the new representative for District 5, holding an insurmountable 40-point lead over ChrisTiana ObeySumner.

Ultimately, it may come down to a last-minute surge by progressive voters to propel their candidates to victory, as Sawant did with a nearly 16-point swing in 2019. However, it’s worth noting that Seattle has never seen a council member quite like Sawant.

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Can progressive candidates surge to prevent Seattle City Council overhaul?