(CN) – Early returns Tuesday night did not reveal whether Amazon’s $1 million gamble to transform Seattle’s city council would pay off, but several races showed the corporate giant’s candidates falling behind.
Last year, Seattle city council passed a per-employee tax on the state’s largest employers to build affordable housing and fund its fight against homelessness. About 500 companies grossing $20 million or more per year would have paid approximately 14 cents per hour worked by each employee – which after five years would add up to over $45 million.
But Amazon, Starbucks and the Downtown Seattle Association fought the tax and, two weeks later, the council voted 7-2 to repeal it. Now, the tech giant is trying to remove progressive council members and is spending nearly half a million to back candidates that would make the city council much more friendly to big business.
Amazon responded by spending over $1 million on this year’s election, funding opponents to try and unseat progressive council members such as Lisa Herbold and Kshama Sawant and to fight Tammy Morales.
As of Tuesday night, only about half the results had been tallied, but early returns showed that the funding campaign led by the world’s richest man might fail to install a pro-business city council. The following numbers are not final, and have not yet been certified by Washington’s secretary of state.
Incumbent Lisa Herbold squeaked ahead of Phil Tavel –who received $120,000 from Amazon – at 51% to 48%, respectively.
Amazon-backed Mark Solomon, who works for the Seattle Police Department, trailed Tammy Morales by 14 points. Morales is a community planner who has called for another head tax, or some other form of taxing Seattle’s wealthiest, such as an inheritance tax, a tax on CEOs or on second homes.
But in the council’s third district, Amazon-funded Egan Orion lead two-term incumbent Kshama Sawant, 54% to 45%. Sawant has called for taxing big businesses to pay for housing, transit improvements and environmental protections.
More results will continue to roll in throughout the week. Historically, progressive candidates get more of Seattle’s later votes.