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Originally published August 6, 2013 at 9:30 PM | Page modified August 6, 2013 at 11:32 PM

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For Seattle council: Conlin against Sawant, O’Brien against Shen

Seattle City Council incumbents Richard Conlin and Mike O’Brien led in their races in Tuesday’s primary. Conlin will face Kshama Sawant, a Seattle Central Community College economics instructor, in the November general election. O’Brien will be up against engineering consultant Alb

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Why would anyone want the Stranger to endorse them!! MORE
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O'Brien will not be facing anyone if his 57 percent holds down to 51 percent. It's more... MORE


Seattle City Council incumbent Richard Conlin will face Kshama Sawant, a Seattle Central Community College economics instructor, in the November general election. Incumbent Mike O’Brien will square off against engineering consultant Albert Shen.

Don’t look for an overarching theme in the first-day returns for the two primary races.

Sawant, a socialist, says she’s challenging Conlin because the four-term incumbent is too conservative for Seattle. Brian Carver, the other Conlin challenger, raised more in campaign contributions than Sawant, but she touted endorsements from The Stranger, local labor unions and activists including Real Change director Tim Harris.

Conlin collected 49 percent of the vote to Sawant’s 33 percent and Carver’s 17 percent.

In the other council race, Shen says O’Brien, a one-termer, is too close to Mayor Mike McGinn. David Ishii, the other candidate challenging O’Brien, did not mount a serious campaign.

O’Brien won 57 percent to Shen’s 35 percent.

The two races will offer voters a real contrast in candidates.

Conlin, 65, was an early adopter of environmental sustainability and has been the council’s chief advocate for urban agriculture. He’s been endorsed by environmental, labor, business and Democratic Party groups. He has raised over $100,000 more than either of his opponents.

Sawant, 40, is running as a “socialist alternative” candidate. She ran for the Legislature last year against House Speaker Frank Chopp. She supports a $15-per-hour minimum wage, rent control and a tax on millionaires. She criticizes Conlin as the candidate of the corporate establishment. She has raised approximately $20,000 in campaign contributions. Conlin has raised $143,000.

O’Brien, 45, a former local Sierra Club activist, is considered McGinn’s most reliable ally on the council. He has successfully pushed onto the November ballot a proposal to have taxpayers finance council campaigns. And he led the council to increase affordable-housing fees for developers in South Lake Union. He’s been endorsed by numerous labor unions and Democratic Party groups.

Shen, 46, owns a civil-engineering firm and serves on the Seattle Community Colleges board of trustees. His pro-business campaign has been endorsed by the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. He has outraised O’Brien by about $35,000 in campaign contributions. And he produced a flier with an illustration of O’Brien in McGinn’s pocket.

The last incumbent council member to lose an election was David Della, unseated by Tim Burgess in 2007.

Two other incumbents running this year, Sally Bagshaw and Nick Licata, have only one opponent and thus didn’t appear on the primary ballot.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or

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