Kshama Sawant, an economics instructor pursuing the Position 2 Seattle City Council Seat, has captivated Seattle’s left-leaning communities of color with her inspiring, grassroots campaign, sharp economic mind and uncompromising principles. Last fall, Sawant shocked Washingtonians by running against arguably the most powerful and popular Democrat in State Legislature: House Speaker Rep. Frank Chopp. In that race, Sawant secured 29 percent of the vote as a Socialist alternative candidate, and in her run against Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin, she secured 33 percent of the Seattle primary vote.
Now she’s the chief agitator for the worker’s movement to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. If she wins the Position 2 seat, she will be the first Socialist and South Asian woman to serve on Seattle City Council. Throughout her campaign, Sawant, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mumbai in 1996 and landed in Seattle in 2006, has refused to be marginalized and does not compromise her core values. A few weeks before Election Day, she shared with the International Examiner (IE) some of where this charge comes from.
IE: How did you end up in Seattle? What do you love about it?
KS: Well most people don’t have a choice. You get a job and move. But I have to say that I was very happy going to Seattle. And you know the values of the people of Seattle are very progressive. … I love that Seattle is so beautiful and so green. I love the fall colors.
IE: What three values is your leadership guided by?
KS: One really core value is the fact that every human being — just by virtue of humanity — is entitled to a decent standard of living. For me personally, it is unconscionable if you are not able to do that. … I think human society has come to the point where we are advanced enough that we have enough resources to provide a decent standard of living for everybody, but for that to happen, we need to change things politically. … The other thing is that it’s actually the right thing to do to speak out against injustice and that we shouldn’t hold back.
IE: If elected to city council, what would be your first priority?
KS: It would be to put forward an ordinance for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
IE: What advice do you have for the next mayor of Seattle?
KS: I think it would be to understand that we are living in changed times, and the movement of fast food workers with the demand of $15 an hour … is something that’s really a sign of this … . Movements will arise in the near future, and it’s a great opportunity for people to play a leadership role in giving space to that.
IE: What will you do if you lose the election?
KS: I’ll be fighting for $15 an hour.