SEATTLE (AP) — Voters in left-leaning Seattle, where police recently handed out snacks at a large marijuana festival and politicians often try to out-liberal each other, are close to electing a Socialist candidate to the City Council.
Following the latest ballot count Tuesday night, Kshama Sawant had a 402-vote lead over 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin.
Given Washington state's mail-in voting system, a winner won't be named for days or even weeks after the Nov. 4 election.
Still, the strong showing by Sawant, a college economics professor and prominent figure in Seattle's Occupy Wall Street movement, has surprised many people.
Scott Cline, the city's archivist, said research showed no Socialist candidate had won a citywide office in the past 100 years.
"This is new territory. There really isn't any precedent," said Stuart Elway, a longtime political pollster. "You think Seattle has a pretty liberal electorate, but you haven't seen someone who calls themselves a socialist win."
Sawant, 41, drew attention as part of local Occupy Wall Street protests that included taking over a downtown park and a junior college campus in late 2011. She then ran for legislative office in 2012, challenging the powerful speaker of the state House, a Democrat. She was easily defeated.
This year, she ran against Conlin, pushing a platform that appeared to resonate with the city. She backed efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15; called for rent control in the city where rental prices keep climbing; and supports a tax on millionaires to help fund a public transit system and other services.
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