SEATTLE — Longtime Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin conceded defeat Friday to socialist candidate Kshama Sawant in the race for the council seat.
His announcement came shortly after King County Elections had released the latest election results, showing Sawant with a 1,640-vote lead; Sawant was leading 88,222 votes to 86,582.
Conlin had a substantial lead on Election Night on Nov. 5, but his lead had been declining as more mailed-in ballots were being counted. Sawant overtook Conlin for the first time last Tuesday — one week after the election — when results showed her with a razor-thin, 41-vote edge. It moved up to a 402-vote difference on Wednesday, then 1,148 on Thursday and finally the 1,640-vote lead on Friday.
Sawant will be the first socialist candidate elected to the Seattle City Council in its history.
Conlin was elected to the Seattle City Council in November 1997. He served as council president for 2008-2009 and again for 2010-2011.
Surrounded by friends and supporters Friday, Conlin said, “I want to thank the voters of Seattle for the honor of serving as your Council member for the last 16 years. It has been a privilege to be your representative and I am proud of what we have done together.
“I’m grateful for the good work of my Council staff and hard work of the campaign. I also want to thank the tens of thousands of voters who supported my campaign for a fifth term on the council. And appreciate the many individuals and groups who supported me by endorsing and those who donated to my campaign.
“Unfortunately, it appears that my opponent has received a greater number of votes, and I am formally conceding the election to Ms. Sawant. I hope that she will serve the people of Seattle effectively during her time in office.”
Conlin and his wife, Sue Ann Allen, live in the Madrona neighborhood. Prior to his election to City Council, he served on the Madrona Community Council and was active in the Central Area Neighborhood Plan.
Sawant issued the following statement after Conlin’s concession speech:
“While I do not agree with Richard Conlin’s political positions, I respect that he served on the City Council for 16 years. He ran a strong campaign and I commend him for his willingness to participate in numerous political forums, openly debating the issues with me.
“I will reach out to the people who supported Richard Conlin, working with everyone in Seattle to fight for a minimum wage of $15/hour, affordable housing, and the needs of ordinary people.
“These exciting results show a majority of voters are fed up with the corporate politicians who have presided over the widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us. The turnaround of the ballot count in my campaign’s favor is a stunning mandate to move ahead with raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15/hour. A majority of voters cast ballots for my campaign which did not take a dime of corporate money, yet succeeded through grass-roots activism.”
Since the signatures on thousands of votes have been challenged, Sawant said, her campaign will continue to make sure that every vote is counted until the election results are certified on Nov. 26.
“Every additional vote for our campaign shows the broad support for a $15/hour minimum wage, rent control, and a tax on the super-rich to fund mass transit and education. We need people to donate to fund our voter protection work, and we need volunteers to help correct the challenged ballots so that every one of these votes will count,” Sawant said.
Sawant is a former software engineer, part-time economics professor and activist. She holds part-time teaching positions at Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University and was a visiting assistant professor at Washington and Lee University. Sawant has run unsuccessfully for the state House of Representatives.
Sawant, who was born in India, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Mumbai in 1994. She received her PhD in economics from North Carolina State University in 2003.