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By Howie Hawkins
Kshama Sawant has served on the Seattle City Council for six years as its first socialist elected in nearly a century. She has taken on big business interests and worked on behalf of working people and the poor.
Amazon, Seattle’s largest private employer, targeted her reelection to a third term. Amazon spent $1.5 million toward city council races with nearly half a million dollars focused on removing Sawant. These were massive expenditures for Seattle City Council races. Sawant won with nearly 52 percent of the vote running on a left-wing, socialist platform.
Initial returns showed her losing but when the final count came in, buoyed by a late surge from the working class and youth of the district, Sawant declared victory, from a podium in front of a bright orange banner with the words “TAX Amazon.” Taxing Amazon to pay for housing for the homeless was the issue that led to Amazon’s effort to remove her from office and change the city council. She led the effort for a “head tax” on large companies of $275 per employee per year to fund housing and homelessness initiatives.
The Socialist Alternative candidate said in her victory speech “Our movement has won our socialist office, for working people. The election results are a repudiation of the billionaire class…and the relentless attacks & lies…and working people have stood up and said Seattle is Not For Sale!” She defined her victory as a victory of the working class and attributed it to the ideas that she has put forward as a candidate and on the council that drew in working people, who are tech workers, students, nurses, housing activists, security guards, Uber drivers, and communities of color as well as those who did not want to see Seattle become “a playground for the rich.”
Her priorities in her next term in office, policies which I share, include rent control, a Green New Deal for working people and increasing taxes on the wealthy and big companies. She was able to use Amazon’s money against her opponent as it made it clear that Amazon did not want her in office, which played into a national mood of anger at the unfair economic system and a repudiation of the billionaire class.
Sawant ‘s hard-won victory is part of a larger victory for working-class people. Amazon and its local business community agents and proxies fielded and heavily financed a slate of 9 business-friendly candidates. Of the nine, seven were defeated. This a clear indication that the community wants a long-overdue change in business…and politics…as usual.
Howie Hawkins is seeking the Green Party nomination for president. He is a co-founder of the Green Party and is seeking to build a Unity Campaign that unites people on the left from progressives to socialists.