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Seattle socialist candidate widens lead in council race

Seattle socialist candidate widens lead in council race
Kshama Sawant speaks at a news conference on Nov. 12, 2013.
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SEATTLE (AP) - A socialist candidate is getting closer to clinching a seat on the Seattle City Council.

Thursday's vote results show that Kshama Sawant expanded her lead over 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin to more than 1,100 votes. Her campaign hopes she gains enough votes to avoid an automatic recount, which is triggered if a candidate's lead is less than half a percentage point of total ballots cast.

On election night, Sawant was losing by four percentage points, but ballots counted after election day skewed heavily toward her.

Sawant mounted the most successful campaign of any socialist candidates in Seattle's history. The last socialist candidate to make it into the general election was in 1991 and was defeated easily.

Sawant campaigned on focused inequality issues, including supporting a $15 minimum wage and taxing the wealthy.

An initiative that seeks to establish a $15 minimum wage for many workers in SeaTac is also ever-so-slightly widening its lead.

After Thursday's ballot drop, the measure was passing with 2,837 "yes" votes compared to 2,784 "no" votes. That's an improvement for proponents of the measure, which led by 19 points after Wednesday's count. Another tally is expected to be released Thursday.

On election night, the initiative was leading by a 261-vote margin - a decent gap in a race that's likely to draw maybe 6,000 total votes. Supporters declared victory but have since lost much of their advantage.

Washington has the nation's highest state minimum wage at $9.19 an hour; the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour
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