Orion holds substantial lead over Sawant while only 20 votes separate District 7

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SEATTLE – King County Elections continued counting votes Wednesday, a day after the 2019 November General Election, and all eyes were on the contentious race for District 3 on the Seattle City Council - a key target for Amazon, which dumped $1.5 million into local city council races.

Incumbent Kshama Sawant trails behind her opponent, Egan Orion. Wednesday’s ballot count results were announced at 4 p.m. Wednesday and Orion maintained his lead, but Sawant did not concede.

During her election night party Tuesday, Sawant said her campaign would keep fighting until every ballot was counted.

“My friends, we as working-class people, we have always had to fight hard so we are going to have to continue to fight hard and make sure that every ballot of otherwise disenfranchised people is counted are we ready to do that,” Sawant said to her supporters.

On election night in 2013, Sawant trailed her opponent by a similar margin when the early results were announced. She later came back and won the race after drop box and mail-in ballots were all counted.

“Those of you who were with us in 2013 will remember what happened,” said Sawant, followed by cheers from the crowd.

Sawant told her supporters at her election night party she believed the same come back could happen and maintain her position as Seattle’s City Council member for District 3.

She informed her audience that her campaign volunteers knocked on more than 200,000 doors during the campaign. Sawant also told them they raised more than $540,000 in campaign funds, none of which were corporate dollars.

“These are community members who are fired up because this campaign is their campaign, not paid canvassers bought from corporate money,” said Sawant.

Her opponent, Egan Orion, said there's a reason early results show him in the lead. He said he believes he will maintain the lead, as voters in District 3 want change in their representation.

“[Sawant] is least effective council member on the council today,” said Orion. “She is more interested in her national movement than she is interested in the day to day lives of people in District 3. I totally respect the values she stands for. I share a lot of those values. But ultimately, when you’re traveling around, doing fundraisers in the northeast or in Europe, which she does a lot.”

This was Orion’s first time running for political office, and he was endorsed by an Amazon backed PAC. The group dumped a record $1.4 million into local city council races, Orion being the biggest beneficiary of that money.

Sawant said the big money endorsement sways voters, calling Orion “Amazon’s candidate.”

“It is not about inviting the billionaires to the table because, for God sake, they own they whole damn table. And they have show that they will flip the table over if they don’t get their way,” said Sawant.

Orion said people in District 3 didn’t let the endorsement distract them.

“I think this has been a lot of noise in the last couple of weeks. but at the end of the day, the voters are going to vote for change. it’s totally up to them,” said Orion. “The District 3 voters spent a lot of time with me and council member Sawant, getting to know us and our positions. I think it’s clear from what I hear from knocking on doors across this district is that people want a change.”

At the same time, the race for District 7 was heating up. Jim Pugel has a 20-vote lead over Andrew J. Lewis to take over Sally Bagshaw's seat.

Another key race was between former council member Heidi Wills, who was endorsed by the chamber's PAC, and Dan Strauss, an assistant to retiring council member Bagshaw. Strauss was leading by nearly 5 percent on Wednesday.

Seven of the nine council seats are open. Four incumbents declined to seek re-election.

Because of Washington state's vote-by-mail system, final results won't be known for days.

Julie Wise with King County Elections said the Wednesday and Thursday after an election are their busiest days to count postmarked mail-in ballots and dropbox ballots. Wise said they had more than 250,000 ballots to count at the start of Wednesday.

“We really believe that we’ll be pretty caught up by Friday of this week. So, candidates and campaigns should have a real clear understanding of where they stand in the race,” said Wise.

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