Socialist claims victory in Seattle election contested by Amazon-backed challenger

Five of seven candidates backed by Jeff Bezos defeated

Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 09 November 2019 23:10 GMT
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A socialist politician in Seattle has declared victory, after Jeff Bezos and Amazon poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a local election to support “business friendly” candidates.

Kshama Sawant, 46, has celebrated with supporters after a late surge saw her pass the person seeking to oust her from Seattle’s city council.

That person, Egan Orion, had been backed by a political action committee or PAC, called Civic Alliance For A Sound Economy (CASE) that was headed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, to which Amazon had given around $1.5m to support candidates it approved of.

Reports suggested CASE spent around $450,000 supporting Mr Orion, and Ms Sawant’s victory marked defeat for five of the seven candidates supported by the PAC. Ms Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative party.

“It looks like our movement has won, and defended our socialist city council seat for working people against the richest man in the world,” Ms Sawant said at a press conference on Saturday, at which she took aim at Mr Bezos, according to the Seattle Times.

Mr Bezos, who founded Amazon in 1994, is said to be worth $110bn.

Amazon has previously avoided getting involved in local politics. Yet, that change after proposals were made to charge large corporations a so-called “head tax” to help pay for services for the homeless.

City mayor Jenny Durkan and other members of the council, only backed away from the tax after Amazon, which would have had to pay $11m a year, threatened to halt its development in the city.

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The company employs around 50,000 people in Seattle, which like many west coast cities has a major problem with homelessness and a lack of affordable housing, something that the tech boom has made worse.

Last week, Elizabeth Warren denounced Amazon’s attempt to influence the election, as did Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Ms Jayapal said: “This most recent influx of money from Amazon is callously disrespectful to the residents of our city.”

A spokesperson for Amazon said at the time: “We are contributing to this election because we care deeply about the future of Seattle.

“We believe it is critical that our hometown has a city council that is focused on pragmatic solutions to our shared challenges in transportation, homelessness, climate change and public safety.”

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