Vote Sawant 2019 is now an official political committee registered with the city’s Ethics and Elections Committee.
According to records, the group is starting with around $2,700 in debt to various organizations including Sawant’s political organization Socialist Alternative, the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, and the Smith & Lowney law firm.
Expect the campaign’s finances to greatly improve. In 2015, Sawant out-raised her opponent by 20%, accumulating some $480,258 in contributions from some 3,900 supporters — about 2,500 more than Pamela Banks.
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The 2019 race will represent Sawant’s second defense of her seat on the council as an incumbent following her debut victory to join the body over incumbent Richard Conlin in 2013.
Sawant’s path to victory in 2019 may be off to a rockier start following reports of Socialist Alternative’s influence in her City Council office extending to direction on votes and staffing. Sawant addressed the issues last week, saying she is “democratically accountable” to Socialist Alternative as she serves her constituents in District 3.
Sawant may also find her opponents a larger challenge this time around. Beto Yarce, a member of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Small Business Advisory Council and director of a nonprofit dedicated to economic mobility for Latino small business owners, has criticized Sawant over the Socialist Alternative issues and is lined up to win the district’s business support and voters in its wealthier neighborhoods.
Marijuana retail store owner Logan Bowers and Beacon Hill neighborhood activist Pat Murakami have also joined the race.
As of this week, Yarce is leading in campaign contributions with only $2,100 raised. Murakami has the largest campaign total to date after she loaned herself $2,500.
Sawant’s funding this time around will also likely be boosted by the city’s Democracy Vouchers program. Each of her competitors have said they also plan to be part of the program which provides vouchers to residents that can be pledged to qualifying Seattle City Council candidates. D3 candidates have said the new program is a boost for democracy — but the timing required to be part of the program and raise funding in time to be competitive in the August primary has meant early entries in the race for participants.
Sawant has not yet announced her campaign publicly but local Socialist Alternative organizers seem geared up for the fight. A January 29th event — Socialists Into City Hall—Building the Mvmt in the 2019 Election — will feature Sawant, a “Socialist Alternative Member & 2019 Candidate for D3.”
UPDATE 1/15/2019: A campaign spokesperson said Sawant was moved to join the campaign at this early juncture in part due to enthusiasm from her supporters who began donating to a possible campaign even before one had been declared.
“Lots of people expected Kshama to run,” the spokesperson said.
The decision was made to file the needed paperwork so as not to run afoul of any campaign finance issues. The decision on whether Sawant will take part in the city’s Democracy Vouchers program hasn’t been finalized, we’re told.
The campaign is planning an official kickoff later this month.