Just as the 5 o' clock news began, a line of sepulchral-looking staffers stood outside the Seattle City Council offices for four-term councilman Richard Conlin. He emerged to greet his colleagues—passing an empty white coffee mug back and forth between his hands during handshakes—and then, mug in tow, approached a wall of reporters and brightly lit TV-camera rigs.
"Unfortunately," he said, Kshama Sawant had pulled ahead in the latest vote tallies. "We do not see a realistic path to success," Conlin added. "We are officially conceding defeat. We ran a strong campaign. She obviously ran a stronger one." He doesn't intend to run for office again, he said.
"I am surprised and disappointed," said Conlin, flanked by scores of city staff and Council Members Sally Bagshaw and Tim Burgess.
It's fair to say Sawant's victory—a socialist with few institutional backers—is as blindsidingly stunning as Conlin's defeat. In his 16 years on the council, Conlin had established a bedrock of support from donors and endorsing organizations. But today's vote batch gave Sawant 56.3 percent of the day's tally, thereby handing her a 1,640-vote lead, 50.3 percent to 49.4 percent.
Speculating on her upset as a lefty outsider, Sawant said in an interview earlier this afternoon, "He was blasé until the end almost."
She issued a statement this evening: "While I do not agree with Richard Conlin's political positions, I respect that he served on the city council for 16 years," adding, “These exciting results show a majority of voters are fed up with the corporate politicians who have presided over the widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us."
"I'm sure there are many things I could have done differently," Conlin told reporters. But, without naming specifics, Conlin said was proud that he "was not afraid to stand up" to support what he supported or oppose what he opposed. One reporter asked if he felt unfairly pilloried in the press. He declined to comment but said, graciously, "We did not get our message across."