A Lefty Challenger Takes on a Democratic Leader
Write-In Campaign Propels Socialist Alternative Kshama Sawant into November Race Against Frank Chopp
Watch out, Frank Chopp, the Socialists are coming for you!
Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant will face off against the grizzled Democratic state house Speaker in November, after an unprecedented write-in campaign pushed her through the top-two primary in the Legislative District 43, Position 2 race.
King County Elections officials confirmed August 20 that 3,415 voters managed to spell Sawant's name correctly, more than enough to beat the 2,582 votes compiled by third-place finisher Gregory Gadow, whose name appeared on the ballot alongside Chopp's.
What makes Sawant's write-in campaign all the more remarkable is that she didn't run one—and she wasn't running against Chopp.
Sawant had filed to run against Representative Jamie Pedersen for Position 1 (a race in which she also secured the second spot, but will decline to run). But following the advice of the Stranger Election Control Board—which thought Chopp's tenure presiding over the defunding of state government made him more deserving of a Socialist opponent—thousands of Stranger readers dutifully wrote in Sawant's name.
"Chopp is seen broadly as being the instigator of budget cuts and rising unemployment," says Sawant, an economics instructor at Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College. She's not your typical goofy third-party candidate, either. She's an articulate firebrand with a better grasp of how the state's tax structure is failing its people than most of the legislators we've talked to.
Sawant acknowledges that she likely can't win, but the planks of her platform won't sound so crazy to the district's many progressive voters: progressive taxation, living-wage jobs, protecting social services, and investing in schools, transit, health care, and renewable energy.
But Chopp defends his record against Sawant's criticisms, such as her goals of restoring funding for Basic Health and Disability Lifeline. "It's ironic that she would be complaining about Disability Lifeline and Basic Health when I was literally the lead guy on saving those programs."
Chopp tells The Stranger he would consider debating Sawant in a public forum, depending on the "details." But even against a third-party challenger, Chopp says, he doesn't take his reelection as a given: "I don't take anything for granted."