In Seattle’s largest City Council campaign rally and fundraiser of the 2015 campaign, hundreds of supporters of incumbent and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant packed into 8th and Seneca’s Town Hall Saturday evening. A slate of speakers, some traveling from as far as Ireland and Greece, pumped up the crowd for nearly two hours in anticipation of Sawant taking the stage.
“What is taking place in this room is called a revolution,” said author and TruthDig columnist Chris Hedges. Hedges later said, “If we lose this one we lose everything, and it begins tonight with you in this room with Kshama Sawant.”
The City Council campaign rally was not only unusual for its size, but for its sweeping themes that extended far beyond the boundaries of Capitol Hill and the handful of other District 3 neighborhoods. Speakers extolled the importance of spreading Sawant’s Socialist Alternative party ideals globally and the crucial role her reelection would play in that effort.
Sawant continues to push rent control as a top issue in her campaign despite the statewide ban on such policies. On Monday, Sawant and City Council member Nick Licata introduced a resolution stating the council’s support for rolling back the ban.
“Our city is being turned into a playground for the super wealthy,” Sawant said Saturday night.
Also speaking at the campaign rally, State Sen. Pramila Jayapal vowed to work to lift the state ban on rent control, which is key for Sawant to make good on her pledge to pass rent control in Seattle.
“People demanded action with one voice on the housing crisis,” Sawant said. “They demanded rent control to make Seattle affordable.”
“We must nationalize these victories … demand living wages and union rights across the country.”
The rally was preceded by a similar event in New York City, where Sawant took home around $9,000 in campaign contributions, according to her staff. The trip didn’t go unnoticed by opponent Pamela Banks, who chided Sawant for traveling to NYC instead of attending a Friday City Council meeting about the mayor’s proposed transportation levy.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein told the crowd that Seattle was leading the way on third party progressive politics. “We must nationalize these victories … demand living wages and union rights across the country,” she said.
When Sawant finally took the stage, she called on a campaign of mass involvement against the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Restaurant Association. She also said Capitol Hill’s LGBTQ and artist communities “have been under siege from this developer/development agenda.”
Sawant took time to strongly rebuke Mayor Ed Murray for, among other things, proposing a bill to keep election events outside of City Hall. The bill, which was recently shot down by the city’s ethics commission, attempted to ban events like Sawant’s recent affordable housing forum in City Hall which Murray considered to be a thinly veiled campaign rally.
“Corporate politicians … need to be constantly reminded of the constitutional rights of the rest of us,” Sawant said.
In a nod to the city’s new minimum wage law — Sawant’s top accomplishment during her first term on City Council — tickets for the rally and fundraiser went for $15. Rally goers who could afford it were also asked to donate the full amount for a couple and individual, $1,400 and $700 respectively. Volunteer sign-up sheets were distributed throughout crowd by Sawant’s campaign legions, many wearing red t-shirts with “I’m voting for the socialist” printed on the back.
Sawant’s opponents in the race include Banks, Morgan Beach, Lee Carter, and Rod Hearne. All five candidates are confirmed to be at Monday night’s Madison Valley/Madison Park candidate forum. The event starts at 7 PM at the Bush School’s 34th and E Harrison campus.
See CHS’s District 3 coverage here.
- Emcee Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League, said Sawant was the only council candidate to attend her organization’s first events.
- Askini said the effort to reelect Sawant will be won “at the doors.”
- David Rolf, president of SEIU 775, said people in 100 years will not remember the names of organizers, politicians, or celebrities who fought for social justice. “They’re going to remember whether a handful of courageous souls in the upper left corner of this country had the courage to stand up for the American dream when it was at its greatest level of risk.”
- Abdi Mohamed, an East African community organizer, said he met Sawant when hardly anyone in the city could pronounce her name. “Now she’s a household name,” he said.
- “(Sawant) understood that building new jails is the perpetuation of a racist prison industrial complex,” said community organizer Dustin Washington.
- Washington said Sawant’s election would send a message to “the racist, capitalist power structure.”
- People do not want more of the “spineless Democratic and Republican candidates, said Stein.
- Christos Giovanopoulos, a member of Greece’s ruling Syriza party, called on solidarity for socialist groups across the globe. “We cannot win without you, you cannot win without us. We are in a common struggle,” he said.
- Ruth Coppinger, a Socialist Party member of the Irish Parliament, told crowd how U.S. corporations avoid paying massive amounts of taxes in Ireland.
- Coppinger said many in Europe would be floored to find out that a socialists were winning elections in the U.S.
- “If you have Visine in your purse right now, tell me you can contribute $420 to Kshama Sawant,” said IBEW union member Nicole Grant while conducting the evening’s donation ask.
- Despite being a policy analyst for Seattle’s Urban League, the organization Banks used to run, Sheley Secrest said Sawant was catching grief “for carrying our voices to City Council.”
- Talking about her recent affordable housing town hall, Sawant said “City Hall was filled with ordinary people in a way it hasn’t in a long time.”