The rain was cold, dripping down her blue poncho, but the newly elected city councilwoman’s words sizzled.
Surrounded by union workers gathered to support Boeing’s machinists, Kshama Sawant denounced the two-party political system, corporate greed, military contracts and the leaders of the aerospace giant whose name has long been synonymous with Puget Sound.
“We don’t need the executives!” cried Seattle’s first elected Socialist in living memory, as the damp crowd cheered and rush-hour traffic hummed slowly by. “We need Boeing to be under democratic public ownership by workers — by the community!”
Sawant is the rare elected official with roots in the Occupy movement — the leaderless resistance effort that drew thousands of protesters around the globe to encampments including those at Wall Street, Los Angeles City Hall, the Mexican Stock Exchange and Seattle’s Westlake Park, where they demonstrated against income inequality in 2011. Her ascendance is an indicator of shifting Seattle politics — of how elections are run here and what voters are thinking.
Seattle’s City Council — ostensibly nonpartisan but stocked with Democrats — will soon be a two-party body. And there isn’t a Republican in sight.
Two weeks ago, on election day, the 41-year-old software-engineer-turned-far-left-sweetheart was trailing longtime incumbent Richard Conlin, 46% to 54%, and it looked like the environmentalist who rode his bike to City Hall had won a fifth term.
But Washington is a vote-by-mail state, only a fraction of the ballots had been counted, and Sawant swore that she would unseat the fleece-vest-wearing Democrat — if not this time, then the next. She was certain, she told supporters, that late voters would break with tradition and veer left instead of right.
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