So did Seattle socialists win or lose in the election? Kshama Sawant was re-elected in City Council District 3, and her ally Mike O’Brien also won in District 6. But other potential allies faltered.
Still, political analyst C.R. Douglas of Q13 FOX told KUOW’s David Hyde, Sawant’s re-election pushes the council her direction.
“Now her slate didn't win but I will say that it changed the whole race,” Douglas said. “They moved the conversation left. There was a whole bunch of positions taken in this campaign driven by Kshama Sawant and that socialism-progressive agenda. So even though some of the more establishment people won, they are going to enter city hall and really be more leftist than they would have otherwise been.”
But what about the practical limit of not having enough votes on the nine-member council? Under the old council structure, Sawant and O’Brien had Nick Licata as an ally. Now Licata has retired. And it doesn’t look like Lisa Herbold can replace him – she trails Shannon Braddock in West Seattle’s District 1. There will be four newcomers to the council, and some seem more likely to be allied with Mayor Ed Murray.
“There is no doubt that this city is moving further left -- you can sort of hear the tires screeching on the sharp left turn there,” Joni Balter, host of “Civic Cocktail” on the Seattle Channel, told Hyde. “But in the actual voting, in terms of a Sawant slate there are not five votes. They always say ‘What's policy in Seattle? Five votes is policy.’ She doesn't have that at the moment.”
Balter said that means Murray doesn’t necessarily have to change strategy to accommodate Sawant.
“The question was was she a one-time fluke. But now that she has established that she can be re-elected … they have to deal with her. You can't ignore her and kind of marginalize her,” he said. “It'll be very interesting if she can capitalize on that."
Murray also has to be breathing easier after the success of the Move Seattle transportation levy, a $930 million behemoth that had run into unusual opposition in tax-friendly Seattle. Balter said a small poll had shown the measure was in trouble, so the pro-levy camp buckled down. And that, she said, shows an interesting dimension to Murray.
“He is a guy who campaigns and runs scared,” she said. “Before his election as mayor I saw him and he was shaking. He told me he was going to lose. Now he did not win in a landslide – 51.5, I think was his percentage. But once you're running scared you get into retail campaigning.”
So the pro-levy got out in the waning days of the campaign and pounded out a message of what that $930 million was going to do for Seattle.
“They ran scared,” Balter said. “And then they won.”
Correction, 9:10 a.m., 11/5/2015: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect first name for City Councilmember Mike O'Brien.