On August 4th 2015, Seattle District 3 held its Primary Elections for City Council Member Positions. There were originally 47 candidates running. This quantity of candidates was significantly high- it was more than twice the number of candidates from the past two years combined. However, due to primaries, the citizens of Seattle have narrowed down the candidates to two per district. In the past, elections were held at-large. However recently due to the Proposed Charter Amendment No. 19 being passed in 2013, seven new districts were constructed which allowed each district to vote for their own district representative. In fact, the increase in candidates running for City Council was hypothesized by supporters of the amendment to be a consequence of the new amendment being passed.
Kshama Sawant, a current member of the Seattle City Council, is an interesting contender in this race to observe because of her trends she has spent more money than any other candidate in all the Seattle city council races. (Please see the member blog post Sawant Finances Strategy in the member section.) Sawant was running for Position 3 against Pamela Banks, Hearne Rodney, Lee Carter, and Morgan Beach. According to the official primary elections results, Sawant and Pamela Banks won the Primary Election and are now going on to compete against each other in the general election on November 3rd, 2015. Sawant won with a 52.03% (11,675 votes) and Banks came in second with a 34.10% (7,651).
An interesting thing to note about this race is that both candidates have raised their funds through numerous small contributions according to the PDC. At the time of the primary results, Sawant raised $251,237.49 in contributions, spent $222,977.36, and received $3,418.04 in independent expenditure support, with no outstanding debt. Sawant focused her expenditures on collateral materials (shirts, flyers, campaign signs, etc.) and consultants for her campaign. Sawant was able to fundraise largely through smaller contributions with the majority are under $1000 and hosting four fundraising events. Banks raised $227,482.47 in contributions, expended $128,754.30, and received no independent expenditure support while accruing a debt of $19,922.11. Banks has focused her expenditures on consulting, mailers, and online digital advertisements, with limited focus on collateral materials. As opposed to Sawant, all of Banks’ contributions were under $750.
Sawant easily has the upper hand coming out of the primary. She has more money, more votes, and is essentially an incumbent. However, Sawant is a controversial candidate whose socialist views can cause dissention among her more moderate supporters at any moment, so the race is far from over. If Banks can garner the supporters of the primary candidates that lost, while rallying her supporters before the general election she can pose a serious threat to Sawant.