Headshot depicting Tammy Morales wearing all-black against a gray background.

ELECTIONS UPDATE: Late Ballots Give Morales the Win, Leave Other Progressives Lacking

by Tobias Coughlin-Bogue

As of Wednesday, Nov. 15, almost all remaining ballots have been counted in Seattle’s odd-year City Council election. Late ballots, which have historically favored progressives, did their thing in District 2, catapulting incumbent Tammy Morales from a nearly 9-point deficit to a 1.6-point lead.

“On Monday, Nov. 13, City Council incumbent Tammy Morales secured re-election as District 2 Councilmember with more than 50% of the vote,” her campaign wrote in a press release sent that evening.

“Our campaign was able to overcome an influx of nearly $200,000 in outside spending within the three weeks leading up to Election Day,” it continued. “This victory is a testament to the power of working people, of our communities of color, and our young people who came together to demand a more just and equitable Seattle.”

While both Morales and her opponent, Tanya Woo, participated in the city’s democracy voucher program, which places limits on campaign spending, several big business groups — joined by Seattle’s largest Trump donor — hopped into the race to spend money opposing Morales and supporting Woo. Morales enjoyed a far more modest amount of independent financial support from unions and progressive groups.

Woo has not responded to a request for comment and has yet to concede the race, but is “now vying for another seat about to be vacated by CM Teresa Mosqueda,” according to conservative journalist Jonathan Choe. Mosqueda, currently an at-large Seattle City Councilmember, won her race for a seat on the King County Council and will be replaced by an appointee early next year.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 15, Morales led with 50.7% of the ballots to Woo’s 49.1%, a 418 vote lead of 13,077 to 12,659.

Photo depicting a headshot of Tanya Woo in a yellow jacket against a backdrop of the Seattle skyline.
Challenger Tanya Woo obtained 49.1% of the ballots compared with incumbent Tammy Morales’ 50.7% as of Wednesday, Nov. 15. (Photo courtesy of Team Tanya Woo campaign.)

King County Elections communications manager Halei Watkins said votes — mainly resolved ballot signature challenges or mailed ballots with on-time postmarks — will still be counted through certification on Nov. 28 with updates about 4 p.m. on weekdays.

“They’ll be pretty low numbers at this point in the election but we know that there are some tight races out there,” Watkins said.

Morales’ comeback is by no means a first for Seattle. Incumbent Kshama Sawant was down eight points against challenger Egan Orion in 2019, before riding a late-ballot surge to a 3.6-point lead and a third term. However, this year, not all progressives were so lucky.

In District 3, where Sawant secured that narrow victory, progressive transportation advocate Alex Hudson went down early against Joy Hollingsworth, a cannabis entrepreneur and food justice advocate who earned centrist Mayor Bruce Harrell’s endorsement.

Hudson was so far behind Hollingsworth as to make the race pretty clear from the get-go, mirroring the situation in District 1, where Harrell-endorsed Rob Saka clobbered progressive ex-Amazon activist Maren Costa, and District 5, where former judge Cathy Moore handed a similar defeat to disability rights advocate ChrisTiana ObeySumner. However, progressives in three other key districts were still in it after the first ballot drop.

In District 4, progressive candidate Ron Davis was down 11 points. In District 6, incumbent Dan Strauss trailed Fremont Chamber of Commerce head Pete Hanning by less than a single point, while his fellow incumbent, District 7’s Andrew Lewis, was down a little over 10 points from challenger Bob Kettle.

While Strauss pulled ahead to a handy lead of five points over Hanning, ensuring him another term, Davis and Lewis were not so lucky. Both still trail their opponents.

While the races in Districts 4 and 7 remain close, with only 262 and 456 votes separating the candidates respectively, more major turnarounds are increasingly unlikely. King County Elections has just over 1,000 votes left to count, and the margins in all of the city’s close races are not slim enough to trigger a recount, per Crosscut city reporter Josh Cohen.

With the results as they stand, a centrist majority on the City Council is all but guaranteed. That’s something that Morales, arguably the only remaining progressive, seems to be keenly aware of.

“In the coming weeks, I look forward to meeting with my new colleagues, and I welcome the opportunity for our new council to set a tone of collaboration and collegiality—even when we agree to disagree,” her press release read.

“Here’s to another four years of fighting the good fight.”

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