It has been several decades since a socialist candidate has won a citywide office race in the United States but that could all change soon as polls are showing Seattle City Council candidate Kshama Sawant with a 402 vote lead on Wednesday evening
and no signs of the margin shrinking.
Sawant's victory over 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin would also make her the first openly socialist candidate to be elected to a city office in Seattle's history.
"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."
With roughly 20,000 votes left to count in the state's mail-in voting system, the Associated Press is reporting that it could be days or even weeks before the Nov. 4 election results can be officially declared.
However, things were looking good for Sawant Wednesday, a candidate who ran on a "Occupy Wall Street" inspired platform including proposals to tax the rich and raise Seattle's minimum wage to $15.
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.
"I think we have shown the strongest skeptics that the Socialist label is not a bad one for a grassroots campaign to succeed," said Sawant.
Sawant's current lead "is stunning considering that election-night returns gave Sawant 46.1 percent and only a faint glimmer of hope," reports the Seattle Times.
"The most important feeling here is not only confirming the trend toward our campaign," said Sawant, noting that the mail-in ballots now coming in are coming predominantly from poorer and younger voters, "but in reality, this is confirming our analysis that there is a deep hunger among people not just in Seattle but everywhere in the United States for a deep political change."