From Capitol Hill’s academic halls, a ‘Socialist Alternative’ to Pedersen in 43rd race

A Seattle Central Community College economics professor and Socialist Alternative candidate for state representative is challenging Democrat Jamie Pedersen in Capitol Hill’s 43rd District.

“As an economist I can tell you the problem is not that we don’t have the resources here to fund these programs, it’s that neither party is willing to fight for them,” state representative candidate Kshama Sawant tells CHS. “They’re bending over backwards to make big business happy … and the people are suffering.”


Sawant is a living, breathing socialist and she’s got the demands to prove it: Create a single-payer health care system in Washington. Raise the state minimum wage to $15/hr. Make Metro ride-free system-wide. And pay for it all through a “Buffett tax” on high income earners and revoking corporate tax exemptions. UPDATE A campaign representative says we didn’t get the tax part quite right: “The article says that Sawant plans to pay for her policies using the Buffett tax. While we agree with the Buffett Rule, what we propose is a far more progressive tax. For instance, the Buffett Rule targets only wage income, not capital gains and dividends. We think the Buffett Rule will be set up in a way as to create loopholes for the rich to avoid paying.”

You may have seen Sawant and supporters handing out fliers at the Broadway farmers market (like we did) and gathering signatures at community events. Her campaign materials include slogans like “Break with the parties of big business,” “A voice for the 99%!” and “Reverse budget cuts, tax the rich!” The Occupy-style rhetoric certainly puts her at odds with Pedersen, but beating 2-term incumbent won’t be easy.

Pedersen, who is unopposed among Democrats, has already raised $40,909, including a $1,000 donation from Bill Gates Sr. Thus far the Sawant campaign has raised just $1,245 – Sawant says she’s shooting for $10,000.

Sawant faces a herculean political battle as well. Pedersen, who was first elected in 2008 and considered popular in the district, has major name recognition coming off his marriage equality win this year. And aside from being openly gay, he’s got the politicians pedigree: bachelor and law degrees from Yale, work as an attorney, and comfort courting major donors and political players.

Sawant is no politician, and proud of it. She has never run for office. Her approach to the campaign is unabashedly activist (no corporate donations, openly anti-big business). She’s part of a number of candidates nationwide who have, in one way or another, come out of the Occupy movement, although that’s by no means where she got her start.

(Image: Vote Sawant)

Born in Mumbai, Sawant says she was socially and politically conscious from a young age.

“From the very beginning I have been consumed with the question of why it is that there is so much wealth disparity in the world, even though millions of people I could see around me were working so hard, they were not even able to make enough money to keep body and soul together. Massive levels of starvation, hunger, unemployment.

“When I came to the US, based on what you hear, you think this is the wealthiest country in the world and everyone will have a really high standard of living: Nutritious food, access to the best education and very high quality health care. It’s quite shocking to find out that even in such an affluent city like Seattle, there is such a divergence of income and wealth and opportunities for even the most basic things.”

Sawant has taught economics at SCCC since last fall and is a part time adjunct professor at Seattle University. She’s held previous teaching stints at the UW-Tacoma.

Sawant is running as a candidate for the Socialist Alternative party. Although primarily an activist organization, Socialist Alternative is a registered party in several states, including Washington.

She’s not the only politician you’ll find on the Hill this summer with a longshot candidacy. CHS talked with Andrew Hughes earlier this spring as he began to mount his campaign to join the House of Representatives against long-time incumbent Jim McDermott. Both of their races, by the way, look like tight ones compared to the run Capitol Hill resident Dick McCormick will need to muster.

Like Hughes, despite the political odds, Sawant is hopeful 43rd District voters are ready to break the district’s status quo.

“We’re seeing a very interesting change in the political consciousness,” she said. “Not only are people becoming more politically active, but they are becoming active because they are more conscious of the great unfairness of the recession.

“Just walking around Broadway I can see people who weren’t homeless before are now homeless. We know conditions are getting worse and people are starting to recognize that.”

Sawant says decades of corporate tax exemptions and kowtowing to the states largest private employers have gutted public services.

“This is one of the most wealthy states. We have some of the most profitable multinational corporations, the state is flush with billionaires, and the state legislature, which is Democratic controlled, is telling us that we have no money for basic health, for community colleges. But we refuse to accept that,” she said. “It’s high time people start questioning business as usual.”

32 thoughts on “From Capitol Hill’s academic halls, a ‘Socialist Alternative’ to Pedersen in 43rd race

  1. “Create a single-payer health care system in Washington. Raise the state minimum wage to $15/hr. Make Metro ride-free system-wide. And pay for it all through a “Buffet tax” on high income earners and revoking corporate tax exemptions.”

    I remember when she might have been confused for a Democrat.

  2. that raising the min wage to 15$ and increasing corp taxes would drive more people to the unemployment lines and depress business and send our corps packing in search of a more reasonable state to conduct business. if the 99% she represents would pay their fair share of taxes they could then legitately rally for tax allocation toward the services they value. but when they contribute nothing how can they expect to be heard

  3. …if she would lead her pitch with three votes Pedersen has made that she would have made differently. I suspect, though, that she can’t point to many — Pedersen is pretty liberal — and so throws around vague statements about “bending over backward to make business happy”… nothing specific.

  4. curious that she would choose to run against pedersen rather than chopp. pedersen has made some anti-labor votes (the WA state labor council declined to endorse him this year) and he now works as the in-house counsel for mckinstry (a corporate lawyer might lack some credibility among the 99%), but he will be ESPECIALLY difficult to dislodge this year after his leadership on marriage equality.

    chopp, on the other hand, is the definition of an establishment blue dog democrat that often seems to work against the progressive interests of the party. she’d still face an uphill battle against chopp, but a serious socialist run would make more sense against chopp than pedersen. plus, the newspaper of record in this district (the stranger) *barely* endorsed chopp in 2010. she would have had a better chance to raise her profile and try to take down frank. weird choice.

  5. Kind of odd how both pictures of her in the article are exactly the same. Yes, we’ve all seen this picture before.

    Come the revolution everyone will eat peaches and cream…

    I wonder how she is going to fund all of her initiatives. Taxing the 1% won’t be enough.

    One of her initiatives is to make all of Metro a ‘free ride zone’. And in most things, she’s looking for a free ride for everyone. Let’s be even more economically irresponsible.

    Time to grow up, and not pass huge debt on to the next generation.

  6. Instead, vote for Kshama Sawant. Here’s hoping she wins and we’ll see many more like her running for office at all levels of government.

    Her opponent, incumbent Jamie Pedersen, “has got the politicians pedigree: bachelor and law degrees from Yale, work as an attorney, and comfort courting major donors and political players.” Oddly, jseattle sees those as positives.

  7. Minimum wage work isn’t worth $55 an hour. If you want to make $55 an hour get the education and training and then go find a job that pays that.

  8. For real?

    Something is seriously wrong with the education system.

    Her ideas would destroy the economy, lead to massive inflation and unemployment and drive employers out of the state in droves.

    College has become a palace of ivory tower liberal pseudo-intellectuals rather than a place of learning.

    I may have to *shudder* vote democrat.

    Why doesn’t she go back and try to make changes in Mubai, where people are in TRUE POVERTY rather than preaching to America’s over privileged 99%.

    As for campaigning at the Farmers Market, having been a nurseryman who would vend at the market, earning my dollars from my work sweat of my brow, this is insulting. The Farmers market is the Free market in it’s purest form, Venders sell their products at the the prices they set, buyers pay what they see as a fair price, the middle men, government regulators are cut out. You would not believe how much regulation there is in agriculture, most of it was put in place to help large corporate farms and keep the small farmer out of the market place.

    Seems like if Sawant had here way she would confiscate the farmers produce and distribute it equally among the masses, ensuring that nobody gets enough to eat.

  9. KarlWalther wrote, “Her ideas would destroy the economy, lead to massive inflation and unemployment and drive employers out of the state in droves.”

    No, the ideas — and works — of the Democrats and Republicans have accomplished all those things already.

  10. Pedersen has a record that is virtually indistinguishable from that of Chopp, with the noted and positive exception of marriage equality. If Chopp has made a vote in favor of budget cuts, then so has Pedersen. Sawant’s campaign puts front and center not just ending cuts- but reversing them and expanding social programs that are in dire need. It’s all good and great that Pedersen has been a champion for some LGBTQ issues, and very few at that. Marriage equality will be a victory when we see it nationally, but does not homelessness affect the LGBTQ community? Issues of income inequality are not bordered off from the gay community, but in many instances in fact poverty is felt more acutely by those outside of heteronorms.

  11. Yes, Republicans and Democrats have overspent, and I have been against that, but the kind of fiscal policies advocated by this candidate go above and beyond. The fact that others have screwed up isn’t license to screw things up in a much bigger way.

  12. You seem to ignore the fact that budget cuts are required, at least for now, in order to satisfy the constitutional requirement that the state have a balanced budget. So it’s a matter of which cuts make the most sense, and have the least impact on those who seem to need various forms of state assistance…and Jamie Pedersen certainly has this priority with his votes.

  13. Metro is taking the opposite tack from what she advocates…the “free ride zone” in downtown Seattle will end later this year. And that’s a good thing….everyone needs to pay their own way. Those poor people who truly need a free ride will be able to get bus passes from various social service nonprofits.

  14. All I had to see was “make Metro ride free systemwide” to know I’ll be supporting Pedersen. We finally just got rid of the damn thing downtown. I can’t think of a faster way to drive paying riders away than to turn the metro system into 20 hour a day mobile drunk tank. A lot of people don’t realize that at it’s core, the Seattle area is made up of a lot of people who used to be called “country club Republicans”. To spell it out, they vote D because of gay rights, abortion, and because they hated Bush’s foreign policy. But they have little use for an economic agenda like this…

  15. Which of her fiscal policies are so dangerous?

    Taxing the wealthy is very sensible, considering how historically low their taxes are now. Making college more affordable will ultimately result in higher tax revenues because the graduates’ jobs will pay more. Single payer health care has proven to be quite effective in Canada and is certainly preferable to Obamacare with its gifts to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

    What hasn’t worked is the deregulation of Wall Street that led to our current econocataclysm, and globalization, which resulted in the export of manufacturing and other well paying jobs. For those we can thank the Dems and GOP.

    It’s clear that Sawant’s positions are very reasonable. A vote for the architects of our current mess is a vote to “screw things up in a much bigger way.”

  16. And yet Obama’s foreign policy is a seamless continuation of Bush’s. As are his domestic policies regarding Wall Street and the surveillance state.

    The emptiness of his Hope and Change rhetoric and the disappointment of his presidency explain the conspicuous absence of Obamamania this time around. I’m still waiting to see the first 2012 Obama tee shirt on Capitol Hill.

  17. I to am against Globalization as well, and support higher education, she mentions neither. As for your question:
    “Which of her fiscal policies are so dangerous?”

    All of them.

    If you had even a basic grasp of economics you would understand that instead of yammering how everything should be free.

    That is the most disappointing part, Sawant is teaching at the college level but does not seems to understand basic concepts economic concepts like scarcity and supply and demand.

    Unlike a socialist systems this is a free country and Sawant can run for office with all the kooky views she wants, but the fact that she is spreading them as fact within the college education system is a travesty. It is not that people should not learn about communism and socialism but they should also learn that these systems have abysmally failed and have a poor track record of human rights. There are 100,000,000+ dead to prove it.

    Sawant immigrated to this country, taking full advantage of the prosperity created by 236 years of American Democracy and Free Markets. Yet rather than educate our students and helping them to become successful individuals, she seeks to subvert the very system responsible for her success. Did she come here to live the American Dream or to destroy it?

  18. We initially were going to run against Frank Chopp for all the reasons you mentioned, and even collected over 1000 signatures in support of our candidacy. Unfortunately, an anti-cuts, independent candidate, Gregory Gadow, had already filed to run against Frank Chopp. In the interest of having a united, independent challenge to the democrats, we decided to switch seats and run against Jamie Pedersen, who was running unchallenged. Pedersen has voted for the budget cuts, voted to take away some of the bargaining rights of unions, and voted to increase tuition costs for higher education. He may be pro-gay marriage, and we celebrate the recent victory in passing gay marriage in this state, but, ultimately he, and the democrats, offer the same solutions to the economic crisis put forward by the republicans: highly regressive consumptive taxes and cuts to social services, essentially forcing working people and youth to pay for a crisis they did not create. We need to challenge the 2 parties of big business, including the progressives democrats.

  19. 236 years of American Free Markets? What planet are you currently residing on, Karl?

    Perhaps you should read up on the Wall Street meltdown of four years ago, where the “Free Market” was subverted by gargantuan transfers of Treasury funds to “too big to fail” banks. You’ll learn that socialism is alive and well in America — if you’re a fraudulent investment bank drowning in your own bad debt. Because in that case, everything IS free. Everything that matters to the banks anyway: boxcars full of cash from the US Treasury, interest free.

    So if the US can lavish trillions of free dollars on Wall Street, will it really be the ruin of the country if we subsidize the city bus service?

  20. Wow, you should be a detective. I was against the bailouts. I am against socialism.

    Because congress and Obongo threw a bunch of money away on the bailouts does not mean we should contine to find new ways to waste taxpayer funds.

    Also the bus system has always been subsidised that is why it is called “public transportation” Sherlock.

  21. C’mon, Karl, make up your mind. Is it 236 years of Free Markets here or is it socialism for the rich? It can’t be both.

    Btw, doofus, the bailout started with Bush. Obama continued the policy after taking office. Try reading the news sometime — it’s highly informative. If you had, you’d have known that both Bush and Obama presidencies supported socialism for Wall Street.

    And it was free market ideology that weakened banking regulations in the late 90’s, thereby allowing Wall Street’s unchecked greed to nearly destroy the US economy over the next decade.

    You wrote, “[Communism and socialism] have a poor track record of human rights.” Yet capitalism’s Cold War record was far worse.

    In the “Cambridge History of the Cold War,” John Coatsworth notes that from 1960 to “the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites.”

    Not surprisingly, capitalism’s human rights record hasn’t improved since. Remember a little “enhanced interrogation” technique called waterboarding? Ever heard of Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo? Did you know about the many innocent civilians killed in US drone missile attacks? How about the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis dead as a result of the completely unjustified US invasion of their land?

    It’s been real but I have to go now, Karl, because I’m due back on the planet Earth.

  22. Give up, etoain. Karl use the terms liberal and socialist to mean the same thing when economic liberal theory is diametrically opposed to socialism. You’d think that his youth tour of anarchism would have given him some grounding in serious theory but, a lot of teenaged anarchist are just punks.

    It’s hopeless. He doesn’t grasp anything he’s railing on, he’s just spouting shitty pop analysis.

  23. So, being an activist makes her unfit to represent the 43rd district? I would think one would want an activist, someone who has been there actively fighting to defend rights and expose the corruption of the 2 parties of big business, to represent them.

  24. Hi all,
    Sarah from the VoteSawant campaign here. I wanted to offer two items of correction.

    The article says that Sawant plans to pay for her policies using the Buffett tax. While we agree with the Buffett Rule, what we propose is a far more progressive tax. For instance, the Buffett Rule targets only wage income, not capital gains and dividends. We think the Buffett Rule will be set up in a way as to create loopholes for the rich to avoid paying.

    Also, we’re hoping to raise $20,000 for both the primaries and generals.
    Thanks!
    Sarah