Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant, the council’s lone socialist and most senior member, announced Thursday that she will not seek reelection this year. Instead, she and her fighting movement will ditch electoralism and launch “Workers Strike Back,” a national campaign that aims to win better lives and conditions for workers, gains that Sawant claims so-called progressive elected leaders fail to deliver. She will also host a video broadcast premiering this summer, according to an op-ed she wrote for The Stranger.
Sawant’s departure marks the end of an era during which the council’s resident Trotskyist never let Seattle Democrats get away with their hand-wringing without an earful about the plight of the working class. But Sawant did more than own the libs: She helped win a $15 minimum wage for Seattle workers, she pushed the council to tax Amazon, and she championed renter protection after renter protection in her role as the Chair of the Renters’ and Sustainability Committee.
Despite her Thursday announcement, Sawant warned her many adversaries not to “mix their martinis just yet.” She’ll fight up to the buzzer for a rent control trigger law, a cap on late fees for overdue rents, and ending the use of credit checks in rental applications.
Those adversaries–from corporate landlords to civility-politics-obsessed Democrats–will finally have a chance at the seat in District 3 this November without Sawant’s name recognition, popularity among renters, and devoted volunteer base, all of which made her untouchable in reelection campaigns and even the recent recall.
In a press conference Thursday morning, Sawant celebrated winning four elections and becoming the council's most senior member, and doing so "not on the basis of go-along-to-get-along politics" or by enjoying "wine and cheese with the Chamber of Commerce." Rather, she called herself "a thorn in the side of the ruling class." Still, she said that sort of inside-agitation strategy won't be enough to overthrow the whole rotten system: "One City Council seat cannot replace a nationwide movement."
Socialist Alternative will not run another candidate to fill her seat, Sawant told reporters. The party believes the time and money it takes to run a candidate would be better spent organizing their new movement.
Likewise, no candidate from the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter or elsewhere has announced a campaign to represent D3, which covers Seattle's central area, potentially leaving Democrats to fight over who gets to finally turn her vacant seat blue.
Sawant is the fourth incumbent to decide against running for reelection, trailing Council Members Lisa Herbold, Debra Juarez, and Alex Pedersen out the door. Out of seven seats up for reelection this year, only Council Member Andrew Lewis has launched a campaign to keep his job.
With so many empty seats, the balance of power on the council–currently three firm progressives, three swing votes, and three firm conservatives—could look completely different after November..