US: 8.5% for socialist candidate in Washington state

The preliminary count shows success for Kshama Sawant, the Socialist candidate, running against Democratic incumbent Jamie Pedersen in 43rd District.

Kshama Sawant, the Socialist candidate running against Democratic incumbent Jamie Pedersen, has won 8.48% of the ballots in the preliminary count as of 8:15 P.M. on Tuesday, August 7 for the Washington State House in the 43rd District (position 1). Unprecedented write-in vote for position 2 could challenge House Speaker Chopp.

This is a remarkably successful primary election result for a grassroots, anti-corporate campaign running for the first time, given how stacked the election process is against progressive left-wing candidates and parties, and that the corporate media goes out of its way to ignore the left. On top of this is the massive advantage pro-corporate candidates have in terms of resources. The Pedersen campaign has raised over $85,000 from wealthy backers and corporations, while Sawant has raised $10,000 from ordinary people.

The Stranger endorsed Sawant as a write-in for Position 2 in the 43rd district, against Democratic Party incumbent and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp. As of last evening, overall write-ins for Position 2 (10.21%) exceeded the votes obtained by independent candidate Gregory Gadow (9.35%), who is on the primary ballot, but has officially pulled out of the race. It is likely that the vast majority of the write-in votes were for Kshama Sawant.

In the next few days as the write-in votes are fully counted, it is possible that Sawant will be declared the second place finisher against Frank Chopp in position 2, in addition to placing second in position 1. Such a development, unprecedented in recent memory, would represent a shock to the political establishment in Seattle and a rejection of the Democratic Party by the voters in the 43rd District.

It would also mean Sawant would have the right to choose which ballot line to appear on for the general election in November, position 1 (against Pedersen) or position 2 (against Chopp).

“We will wait for the final results of the write-ins for Position 2. But, the extraordinarily high proportion of write-in votes, along with the votes for Gadow, is a clear indication of the anger and discontent with Frank Chopp and his big business politics,” said Philip Locker, the Political Director of the Vote Sawant campaign.

These results show that the political mood is changing. People are outraged about big banks and corporations getting trillions in bailouts and tax breaks, while the rest of us are left with massive cuts to education and social programs, and ever-increasing poverty and unemployment.

The Sawant campaign has pointed out that years of Democratic Party holding the governorship and majorities in both the State House and Senate have resulted in an increasingly regressive tax system, decimation of public education, attacks on unions and state employees, and huge handouts to big corporations.

“Olympia is owned by Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are loyal servants of their corporate masters. Where is the voice to represent ordinary working people?” asked Kshama Sawant.

Sawant’s opponent, Democratic incumbent Pedersen is a corporate lawyer. Pedersen has done commendable work for marriage equality, which Sawant supports and has personally marched and organized for. However, Pedersen, like his colleagues in the Democratic Party, is a big-business candidate and has a consistent anti-education, anti-labor voting record. That is why neither he nor Frank Chopp was endorsed by the Washington State Labor Council in a sharp break from tradition.

Sawant, who is running as a Socialist Alternative candidate, is the only candidate calling for the creation of a statewide public works program to create green living-wage jobs, reversing the budget cuts, and providing full funding for education, health care, and public transit by taxing big business and millionaires. She is calling for an end to police brutality in Seattle, and her campaign platform includes the creation of a democratically elected-civilian oversight committee with full powers to hold the police accountable.

"I think the results very resoundingly confirm what our position has been, and what our perspectives have been as socialists and activists—the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring—I think people are hungry for a change. In the State of Washington, people for decades, have been locked in the stranglehold of big business—both the Democrats and the Republicans represent big business, and not ordinary people. It’s time for a change," said Sawant to The Stranger newspaper.

“[We] are really looking forward to running a strong campaign in the general elections. I think that it would be fantastic for us to win, but our campaign—because we are running it as activists, and not as career politicians—we’re about the campaign itself, and getting the word out, and we want to get people politically involved," she added. She also called for a series of public debates with Jamie Pedersen this fall.

The campaign is planning to energetically step up their grassroots work of getting the word out and using the election period to help build towards larger social movements to challenge the two parties of the 1% and put the 99% on the political agenda.

Prominent endorsers of Kshama Sawant’s campaign include: The Stranger, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, Cindy Sheehan (Leading anti-war activist and 2012 Vice Presidential candidate), Rich Lang (pastor at University Temple United Methodist Church and Real Change Columnist*), Mike Lapointe (2012 Independent candidate for U.S. Congress from WA State District 2 and former Vice President of the United Electrical Workers Local 264), Eat the State!, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party.

* For identification purposes only 

Seattle Transit Union Endorses Socialist Kshama Sawant for State House, 21 July 2012

In mid-July, one of Seattle’s largest public employees union endorsed a Socialist Alternative activist, Kshama Sawant, who is running for the Washington State House of Representatives from the 43rd legislative district. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) local 587 is a union of approximately 4,000 bus drivers and transit workers, most of whom work for King County Metro Transit.

Shortly after ATU local 587 endorsed Sawant, the prominent weekly Seattle newspaper The Stranger also endorsed Sawant as a write-in candidate for the 43rd legislative district, position 2. These two endorsements are the latest signs of the growing support the Sawant campaign has been receiving.

Since the economic crisis struck in 2008, on top of 30 years of growing inequality, support for the Republicans and Democrats has been steadily declining as these corporate-controlled political parties have implemented policies that have widened the chasm between the richest 1% and working people. Despite cynicism on the left, there were hardly any objections raised among rank-and-file ATU members about endorsing an openly Socialist candidate. In fact, the votes at the union membership meetings were practically unanimous.

Sawant advocates reversing the $10.5 billion in budget cuts to public services that her opponent Democratic Representative Jamie Pedersen and the Democratic Party-majority state government have implemented during the economic crisis. In fact, Sawant calls for expanding funding to make public transit free, environmentally sound, and extremely convenient for commuters. Seattle has the 4th worst traffic in North America because its transit system is centered around private cars, which is also disastrous for the climate change crisis.

Sawant gained a lot of support from transit workers by demanding taxing the richest 1% and corporations in order to massively expand public transit, create jobs, and restore drivers’ break periods. She pointed out, “simply reversing the 500 tax exemptions given to big business by their bought-off political representatives would bring in $6.5 billion per year.”

The Washington State Labor Council took the unusual step this year of rejecting endorsing Jamie Pedersen, Sawant’s opponent, because of his anti-labor record, such as his vote to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments for teachers’ and public employees’ retirement benefits. Sawant herself is a fellow union sister. She is an active member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 1789 and an economics teacher at Seattle Central Community College. She is also an Occupy Wall Street activist and an outspoken advocate of equality for women, people of color, and LGBT people.

The Sawant campaign hopes more unions will follow ATU 587’s positive example of endorsing her and running activists for office as Independent working-class candidates. The unions traditionally spend hundreds of millions of dollars and valuable time and energy campaigning for Democratic politicians, who, once elected, turn around and attack workers. Rather than trying to compete with unlimited corporate cash for control over the Democratic Party, the labor, civil rights, Occupy, and environmental organizations should use their resources to run independent working-class candidates who refuse corporate campaign contributions.

As one bus driver John Gallup put it, "Simply put, I don’t want to get laid off. There aren’t many good union jobs left, particularly for young people. We’re not going to be effective defending what’s left – or fighting for more good jobs – if we keep supporting the same two corporate parties that keep balancing their budgets on the backs of public employees and social services."

How You Can Support our Campaign:

1) Like our Facebook page

2) Donate on-line at

Unlike our opponent and other Democratic and Republican candidates, we are not financed by big business and the 1%. Our campaign relies on funding from ordinary workers, young people, and activists. To mount a serious challenge to our corporate-backed opponent, we aim to raise $20,000. (Pedersen has already raised $80,000). If you support our campaign, please donate as much as you can, but even small contributions allow us to purchase signs, campaign materials, mailings and print ads, and to organize events.

3) Volunteer

We are running a 100% grassroots, working-class campaign. We rely on ordinary people contributing their time and energy to build our campaign. We need you to get involved! There are many things that we need help with, so you can definitely pick a task that works for you! Sign up at

4) Endorse our candidate

Invite the candidate and/or a campaign representative to talk with your organization about endorsing. Please also contact us if you can personally endorse as an individual. Please include exactly how you want to be listed, for example, as “John Gallup, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 member.”

5) Join our organization, Socialist Alternative!

We have weekly activist meetings, events, and education programs to help people understand the key lessons of past protest movements, revolutions, and how to change society, but we need your help.

For more information or to get involved in the Sawant campaign and/or Socialist Alternative:

+1 (206) 854-2501

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