Kshama Sawant, an economics professor, is the Socialist Alternative candidate challenging Democratic Representative Jamie Pedersen in Seattle's liberal 43rd District. She got 8.4 percent of the vote, as of last night's latest ballot returns, which thrills her supporters because the respectable showing for a third-party candidate advances her to the the general election.
But they're also watching a parallel race—which also involves Sawant.
The Stranger had endorsed Sawant as a write-in candidate against house Speaker Frank Chopp. He's the man responsible for the regressive-tax-passing, GOP-compromising tack of Democrats that Sawant and her backers criticize (while Pedersen, instead, has been an exemplary Dem on passing marriage equality and fighting anti-tax measures), so we figured she should be running against Chopp.
Now it looks like she may—possibly—be able to switch races and run against Chopp in the general after all.
Here's why: Ballot returns from King County Elections show that write-in candidates against Chopp total 10.07 percent of the vote. That's more than the challenger who actually filed in the race, Gregory Gadow, who has only 8.97 percent of the vote. If Sawant has enough write-in votes to come in second-place against Chopp, "she would be allowed to choose—she could select the race she wanted going forward to the general election if she were to win both races in the primary," explains King County Elections spokeswoman Kim van Ekstrom.
The Washington Administrative Code explains the rules in a section called, "Candidate who qualifies for more than one office."
So who are those write-in candidates against Chopp? Sawant's campaign page speculates, "It is likely that the vast majority of the write-in votes were for Kshama Sawant." Indeed, the large number of write-ins for Chopp's race (10.07 percent compared to the tiny 0.82 percent in Pedersen's race) suggests that the write-in campaign has stacked the ballot Sawant's name. But the margin between write-ins and Gadow is admittedly narrow. If there are more write-ins than votes for Gadow, King County Elections will decide by canvassing all the write-in ballots and determining whether Sawant got enough votes to switch races.
If she qualifies, I hope she switches. A smart, firebrand socialist challenging Chopp, the second most powerful politician in Olympia after the governor—and the architect of a Democratic majority that has overseen drastic cuts to education and social services—could stage a spectacular conversation about how Dems have run the legislature.
And, man, I'd love to watch Sawant and Chopp face-off in a debate.