NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

Sara Nelson, Nikkita Oliver ahead in contest for Seattle City Council Position #9

Yes­ter­day evening was Top Two Elec­tion Night in the Ever­green State, and one of the posi­tions up for grabs was Seat­tle City Coun­cil #9 (At-Large).

The seat was vacat­ed by Lore­na González when she chose to run for May­or of Seat­tle. Unlike the oth­er city coun­cil seat in this year’s elec­tion (#8, held by Tere­sa Mosque­da), there was stiff com­pe­ti­tion for this posi­tion between three cred­i­ble can­di­dates: Sara Nel­son, Niki­ta Oliv­er, and Bri­an­na Thomas.

Nel­son is a well-known fig­ure in Seat­tle pol­i­tics, hav­ing unsuc­cess­ful­ly run in 2017 for the City Coun­cil seat now occu­pied by Mosque­da. As the co-founder of the Fre­mont Brew­ing Com­pa­ny and a self-described pro­gres­sive small busi­ness own­er, Nel­son is focused on the eco­nom­ic recov­ery of the city in the after­math of the pan­dem­ic. As well as her famil­iar­i­ty with Seattle’s busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty, she brings expe­ri­ence as a leg­isla­tive advis­er on the coun­cil to the campaign.

Oliv­er is equal­ly famil­iar to Seattle’s voters.

They also ran in 2017 – in their case, for May­or – and nar­row­ly came in third place behind Jen­ny Durkan and Cary Moon with around 17% of the vote in a hot­ly con­test­ed pri­ma­ry. Oliver’s pro­file has only grown in recent years, as they have cam­paigned for solu­tions to home­less­ness on behalf of a vari­ety of orga­ni­za­tions (includ­ing Urban Impact, Union Gospel Mis­sion, and Seat­tle Urban Acad­e­my). They are also a promi­nent voice in Seattle’s Move­ment for Black Lives.

The third con­tender in the race – Bri­an­na Thomas – is anoth­er sec­ond-time can­di­date who is inti­mate­ly famil­iar with the dynam­ics of the City Coun­cil, thanks to her posi­tion as incum­bent Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Lore­na González’s chief of staff.

Thomas pre­vi­ous­ly ran for Seat­tle City Coun­cil in 2015, the first cycle in which Seat­tle had dis­trict based elec­tions for most of its coun­cil seats. She was elim­i­nat­ed in the Top Two, com­ing in fourth behind Lisa Her­bold, Shan­non Brad­dock, and Philip Tavel. (Her­bold pre­vailed in the gen­er­al election.)

Last month, polling con­duct­ed by Change Research for NPI sug­gest­ed that Oliv­er had a strong lead over the oth­er two – 26% to Nelson’s 11% and Thomas’ 6% – but that more impor­tant­ly, 50% of respon­dents were not sure yet.

August 3rd was the dead­line for those unde­cid­ed vot­ers to make up their minds, and it seems like many of them swung for Nel­son, cat­a­pult­ing her into the lead.

In the ini­tial returns, Nel­son’s share of the vote was 42.4% – a huge jump from her show­ing in the poll. How­ev­er, she can­not breathe easy yet, as Oliv­er is only 7% behind her at 35%. Thomas came in at 14%.

If most of Thomas’ vot­ers decide to back Oliv­er over Nel­son in the gen­er­al elec­tion, that could give Oliv­er a cru­cial boost in the final round.

While it seems most like­ly that Nel­son and Oliv­er will be con­tend­ing in the Novem­ber runoff, Nel­son might not nec­es­sar­i­ly hold the pole posi­tion. Because Seat­tle and Wash­ing­ton State are vote at home juris­dic­tions that accept late-arriv­ing bal­lots, sub­se­quent drops can often change the sta­tus of a race days after Elec­tion Night. For exam­ple, in 2019, Kshama Sawant won back her coun­cil seat after trail­ing her chal­lenger Egan Ori­on by 12% on elec­tion night.

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