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Amazon Rival Leads Seattle Contest in Face of Big Money Effort

Matt Day

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s biggest critic on the Seattle city council appears poised to win re-election against a business-backed challenger, an indication the e-commerce company’s record election spending failed to reshape City Hall in its hometown.

Kshama Sawant tallied just more than 50% to 49% for Egan Orion, a difference of 513 votes with the ballots counted as of Friday afternoon local time. Sawant, a socialist who has called for Amazon to pay more taxes and made criticism of Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos a staple of her campaign, had trailed by eight percentage points after the first ballot count was released on Tuesday.

Washington state votes by mail. Sawant, who marshaled a well organized get-out-the-vote operation, has seen her vote totals surge in late counting in prior elections. King County Elections officials planned to release another update later Friday evening in Seattle and expect about 95% of the votes cast citywide will be counted by then.

Amazon made national headlines with $1.5 million in contributions during the city council campaign to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), a political spending group affiliated with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. The company’s effort included a $1.05 million donation last month that was the largest single campaign contribution in Seattle elections in memory. At least 18 Amazon executives personally donated to Orion, an organizer of Seattle’s PrideFest.

Chamber-backed candidates were winning in just two of Seattle’s seven city council races as of Friday. Andrew Lewis, an assistant Seattle city attorney who trailed on election night, has pulled ahead of his CASE-endorsed rival, former interim police chief Jim Pugel, 52% to 47%.

“Amazon made the race about corporate control of the city council,” Mike McGinn, a former Seattle mayor, said on Twitter late Thursday. “Late votes are almost always more progressive, but the strength of the swing here is astounding.”

Amazon declined to comment on the latest results. In a statement released on Wednesday, when Sawant trailed in her contest, a spokesman said Amazon was pleased with the direction of the council election, and looked forward to working with its incoming members.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Day in Seattle at mday63@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack, Alistair Barr

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