Defeated challenger to Seattle’s socialist City Councilmember blames Amazon donations

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The Seattle City Council candidate who had more financial support from Amazon than any other conceded to his opponent Wednesday, concluding a dramatic race that will have lasting implications for the city.

But it wasn’t your typical concession speech. There was no congratulations for the opposition. Instead, Egan Orion blamed Amazon for his loss in a YouTube video.

“Unfortunately, when Amazon dropped over $1 million into the City Council races, just as ballots were sent out, our closing arguments were completely subsumed by national media attention with candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren chiming in on our local City Council races,” Orion said. “What had been a clear lead for my campaign became a much closer race than anyone expected.”

Orion lost to incumbent City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a nationally-known member of the Socialist Alternative party and frequent thorn in Amazon’s side. Amazon spent more than $443,000 to replace Sawant with Orion through a political action committee, part of a larger $1.45 million donation that turned Seattle’s City Council race into a national media spectacle.

Sawant declares victory. (Photo via KshamaSawant.Org)

As Orion implied in his concession speech, Amazon’s record spending on the election appears to have backfired. Just two of the seven Amazon-backed candidates were elected last week. The new Seattle City Council has moved further to the left than the previous one and Sawant is already pledging to tax Amazon aggressively.

Previous efforts to pass a tax on top-grossing companies in Seattle failed amid backlash from the business community. Sawant dubbed it the “Amazon Tax” at the time and vows to revive it next year.

“Our campaign was a referendum on the Amazon Tax,” Sawant said in a statement as she declared victory in the race. “I look forward to working with this new, progressive Council to pass a tax on Amazon and Seattle’s biggest businesses.”

On one topic, Orion and Sawant appear to agree: The massive last-minute donation turned the election into a referendum on Amazon’s influence in its hometown.

“I said at the time and I still believe that the spending was outsized for our tiny district elections, and it made the election not about my opponent’s record and policies, but about Amazon and their massive, unneeded spending,” Orion said in his concession.

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