“Who wants to see Kshama arrested?” was the introduction to Kshama Sawant- SCCC economics professor, Socialist activist, and Seattle City Council candidate. The impromptu survey received much applause as the “brassy candidate” took center-stage.
The Sawant campaign occupied the Central District bar Neighbor Lady for their kick-off party last week. The tight rally of over ninety campaign supporters, and Neighbor Lady bar-goers, hit a moment of electricity as Kshama- speaking less like a spokesperson for “Brand Sawant,” and more like a torch bearer for Socialism- launched into exactly what set her campaign, organized by the group Socialist Alternative, apart from that of her opponent Richard Conlin’s:
“Change does not come about by lobbying the Democratic elite or Republican elite. It comes about when we demand it!” Sawant said.
This is Sawant’s second race, last year being her first foray into elections, racing against the state’s Speaker of the House and Democrat, Frank Chopp. While the campaign ended in a technical loss, she still won 30% of the vote in the 43rd District, a record for Chopp challengers. This year now sees a return of the economics professor and activist, Sawant, currently in the early stages of a City Council run against 16 year incumbent, and previous City Council President, Richard Conlin.
A fund-raising appeal drew in just over a thousand dollars for the race, however just a drop in the bucket in comparison to the over $50,000 Conlin has already raised.
She pledged to take in at most, if elected, $40,000 of her City Council salary of $120,000- the rest to be donated to social movements. While lowering her own taken in salary, she is campaigning on a raised minimum wage of $15 an hour, as well as placing the Seattle Police Department under civilian control, ending MAP testing in schools, expanding public transit, a green jobs program, all topped off by- and paid for through- a high-income “Millionaires Tax”.
All of these far-reaching proposals have been met with skepticism on the part of some major media outlets, quick to point out the restrictions on city powers which would stop many of Sawant’s campaign points dead in the tracks if implementation was attempted. Kshama wasn’t deterred by this however, and spoke directly on this.
“Whatever can’t be done legally, must be done by mass movements.”
Adding to this, Sawant even went as far as explicitly agitating for mass direct action in calling for “a blockade of the coal tracks” against the proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal and train construction in Washington State.
Sawant was prefaced at the campaign rally by a number of other speakers, including representatives of activist groups, such as the Transit Riders Union and SAFE- Stand Against Foreclosure and Eviction. The Transit Riders Union activist spoke on the need for “everybody to have access to public, affordable, (transit)… The only force capable (of fighting cuts) is a mass working class movement.” Steven Price, for SAFE, touched on a recent article by The New York Times, where a JPMorgan banking group made immense losses on a strategy literally founded on “gibberish.”
These groups added a dynamism and fervor to the 2013 iteration of the Sawant Campaign that last year’s lacked. A victory, while still not seen as the overarching goal, nevertheless was spoken about as a possibility by Kshama and supporters more seriously than six months ago. Where then next, for Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative? The Sawant Campaign’s 2012 run inspired Socialist Alternative to run two other candidates in addition to Sawant, Ty Moore in Minneapolis, as well as Seamus Whelan in Boston, both for their respective city councils.
“Lets take this campaign out there and show people what a real grassroots campaign looks like!” Kshama said. Kshama Sawant vs. Richard Conlin might just be the race to watch in 2013. “This is what working class politics look like.”
Editor’s note: The author of this piece, Jordan Martinez, currently works with Socialist Alternative.