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Occupy Seattle member beats 16-year incumbent to City Council job

By Bryan Cohen

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle residents have elected a political newcomer and member of the populist Occupy Seattle movement to their City Council, favoring a champion of a $15 minimum wage and tax on millionaires over a 16-year council veteran.

Challenger Kshama Sawant, a community college economics professor, took 50.3 percent of the vote to incumbent Richard Conlin's 49.4 percent.

Conlin, a bastion of Seattle's Democratic establishment known for pushing sustainability initiatives, conceded on Friday to Sawant, who trailed early on in the largely vote-by-mail November 5 election. The results will be certified on November 26.

"These exciting results show a majority of voters are fed up with the corporate politicians who have presided over the widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us," Sawant said in a statement.

A member of the Socialist Alternative party, she championed "anti-corporate" causes during the campaign. Her victory was seen as unlikely as the Democratic and Republican parties dominate even nonpartisan elections in the United States.

Last year, Sawant ran against state House Speaker Frank Chopp, a popular Seattle Democrat, but lost.

Her win for the at-large council position marks the first time a socialist will hold a citywide post in roughly 100 years, according to the city's archivist.

Socialist Party candidates were elected to state and local offices before World War Two when the U.S. organized labor movement was strong nationwide.

(Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Louise Ireland and David Bailey)

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