Ed Murray ally Pramila Jayapal is supporting Kshama Sawant's city council campaign.
Ed Murray ally Pramila Jayapal is supporting Kshama Sawant's city council campaign.

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Of all the city council races this year (Jesus, there are so many), District 3 will be one of the most closely watched.

It's the district that covers Capitol Hill and the Central District, it's ground zero for development and gentrification, and its voters will offer a referendum on the first year of Kshama Sawant—the international celebrity/socialist council member who hasn’t been afraid to cast lone “no” votes, openly clash with the mayor, or get arrested while protesting.

Today, Sawant’s campaign is announcing a notable early endorsement in her fight for reelection: Pramila Jayapal, the freshman 37th District senator and founder of the immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica, whose legislative district overlaps some with council district 3.

In an announcement, Jayapal calls Sawant a “powerful and unwavering progressive voice in city hall for Seattle's working families—from minimum wage to women's empowerment to housing justice.”

On social and economic issues, Jayapal’s positions closely align with Sawant’s, but she is also a close ally of Mayor Ed Murray, whom Sawant has criticized in debates over how to raise the minimum wage and tackle the city’s affordable housing crisis.

Jayapal (now the only woman of color in the state senate) served on Murray’s transition team, cochaired his search committee to find a new police chief, and was part of the committee Murray gathered to hash out the minimum wage deal. They endorsed each other. And, this year, Jayapal has also endorsed Council President Tim Burgess, a member of the council’s more conservative wing, especially when compared to Sawant.

Jayapal tells me she hasn’t talked to Murray about her endorsement of Sawant or about whether he has, as some have speculated, helped to recruit Sawant’s opponents in this election. (Those opponents, by the way, are Urban League president Pamela Banks, LGBT advocate Rod Hearne, and women's rights advocate Morgan Beach.) But Jayapal thinks Murray and Sawant actually complement each other in fights like the minimum wage hike.

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“I still strongly support him as mayor and Kshama in her bid to be reelected,” Jayapal says. “I really believe we are all working toward the same things and Kshama’s presence on the council has helped us to get there just as the mayor’s position as mayor has helped us get there.”

Sawant says Jayapal’s endorsement is evidence that Sawant's priority of fighting for low-wage workers and members of the middle class is resonating—even with the political establishment she’s often fighting against.

“What this shows more than anything else,” Sawant says, “is the fact that a lot of the people who identify themselves as Democratic Party members or politicians or activists are actually looking for the kind of fight that I have waged in Seattle… It shows that the approach we’re using is really speaking to their values even though I am not a Democratic Party person.”