On Friday, new ballot results reduced the deficit by which Nikkita Oliver trails Cary Moon for second place in the mayoral primary election, meaning that the People’s Party candidate might yet be able to overcome the wealthy urbanist and be the one to face Jenny Durkan in the general election in November.
Durkan, a former U.S. Attorney and the Chamber of Commerce’s preferred successor to Mayor Ed Murray, is the clear winner of the August 1 primary, taking more than twice as many votes as any other candidate—though her lead has been slipping some as the vote count has progressed.
Initial results, which were based on mailed-in ballots alone, gave Moon a slight edge over Oliver for the second place spot, but Oliver supporters were hopeful, pointing to late voters’ tendency to lean hard left—for instance, Kshama Sawant famously surged to victory in 2013 after early ballot results favored incumbent Richard Conlin.
The additional count released on Thursday was the first to include ballots submitted via drop box in the waning days of the election. Despite this, Moon’s lead over Oliver only increased, from 1,978 votes to 2,576. Friday’s results offered a shred of hope to Oliver supporters, with her gap behind Moon slightly decreasing to 2,235. More than 90 percent of the votes have been counted, with just under 18,000 remaining, according to King County Elections.
Oliver isn’t conceding. Her campaign, rather, has gone into ballot-chasing mode. According to King County Elections, about 2,200 Seattle ballots have been challenged due to issues with voter signatures. Oliver’s campaign contends that the voters most likely to have their ballots rejected because of such technicalities are within demographics that support their candidate and are calling on supporters to help confirm their ballots.
“It’s not over until it’s over,” her campaign wrote on Facebook Friday morning.
Moon hasn’t yet claimed victory. That decision appears to have been influenced in part by Moon’s desire to court Oliver voters in the general election, as she candidly shared in a statement released after Friday’s ballot results: “Oliver’s campaign has mobilized and inspired thousands of people. Rushing forward to claim a decisive outcome while some ballots are in limbo would only create distrust. As an engineer, I know that the structure of a coalition is more important than the facade. … We must work together to build a strong progressive coalition.” Though a representative of the campaign told Seattle Weekly earlier in the day that they were not partaking in the outreach, the statement folllowing Friday’s release encouraged Moon’s supporters to help Oliver’s campaign chase contested ballots.
Durkan weighed in with a statement supporting the ballot-chasing effort earlier in the day, taking the opportunity to shine a light on her role in the 2004 gubernatorial race that eventually saw Democrat Christine Gregoire beat out Republican Dino Rossi by a razor-thin margin. At the time, Durkan was in private practice and represented the Democratic Party in a lawsuit brought by Rossi after a hand recount order by the Democrats flipped the election in Gregoire’s favor.
“There is no question that marginalized communities face the greatest barriers in voting,” the statement reads in part. “In 2004, I helped wage an historic, statewide fight to help chase ballots, fix signature problems, and ensure all votes were counted. The efforts changed the outcome of a Governor’s race. Out of approximately 2.9 million votes cast, the race finally was decided by a difference of 139 votes. This is why our campaign was contacting voters last week to let them know their ballots were not being counted, and why I strongly support the efforts of the Oliver campaign.”
It is still mathematically possible for the remaining uncounted votes to lead to an Oliver victory, especially if the contested ballots lean as heavily in Oliver’s favor as supporters believe they will. But her chances are getting slimmer.
The next ballot results publish Monday, August 7, at or around 4:30 p.m.
This story has been updated with Jenny Durkan’s statement.