An Occupy Seattle organizer and Socialist Alternative party candidate has been elected to the city council of the largest city in the US Northwest, and a ballot initiative in a nearby suburb that would increase the minimum wage to $15 leads in the polls.
Dr. Kshama Sawant, an economics professor, unseated four-term incumbent councilman Richard Conlin for Position 2 on the Seattle City Council. The Seattle Post-Intelligencerreported late Thursday that Sawant's lead over Conlin had increased to 1,148 votes on the strength of the latest batch of arriving mail-in ballots to be tallied. KIRO reports that because Sawant's lead now exceeds 0.5%, there will be no automatic recount. King County Elections officials said the counting won't be finished until November 26th.
Sawant, who is originally from Mumbai, India, is an avowed Marxist. The former software engineer later became an activist, an Occupy Wall Street organizer and a member of Socialist Alternative, which is affiliated with the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI). Last year, she was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the Washington state House of Representatives.
Running on a "Fund Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed" platform, Sawant advocates a 'millionaire's tax' to fund mass transit, education and the creation of unionized jobs, an end to corporate welfare, rent control, addressing homelessness, stopping police brutality (she was particularly critical of heavy-handed police suppression of the Occupy movement), and ending deportations of undocumented immigrants. She wants to unionize workers at Amazon, Starbucks and in low-paying service jobs. Throughout her campaign, Sawant's biggest issue was calling for a $15/hour living wage.
In the nearby city of SeaTac, a ballot initiative that would institute a $15/hour minimum wage was leading by 53 votes as of late Thursday.
Sawant ran a grassroots campaign and accepted no corporate campaign contributions. According to the leading weekly alternative newspaper The Stranger, the average donation was $87.