59% of the 37th LD Democrats and 73% of the 43rd LD Democrats Environmental Caucus vote to support socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant against corporate-backed challenger Egan Orion.
On Monday night, nearly 100 Democratic Party activists and campaign supporters packed into the Ethiopian Community Center in Rainier Valley, among the most diverse and working class neighborhoods in Seattle. The first voting item on the agenda of this meeting of the 37th Legislative District Democrats was over who to endorse in Seattle’s District 3 race between Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant and Chamber of Commerce backed challenger Egan Orion.
Democrat Party activists on both sides had spent the previous couple weeks mobilizing 37th LD Democrats to the meeting, but even before the vote the broad smattering of red Sawant t-shirts and stickers in the room made clear who had a majority. While corporate PAC spending may have pushed Orion through the August 6 primary in a crowded six-way race, our victory with the 37th LD Democrats highlighted the growing backlash against the corporate cash flooding into the election. Corporate PACs have amassed a $1.7 million war chest, with Amazon alone contributing $450,000. They are backing candidates in all seven city council races and trying to buy their way to even greater political domination over Seattle City Hall.
As a proud independent socialist, not a Democrat, Kshama Sawant was not eligible for a formal endorsement. Therefore, Sawant supporters fought for a motion for “No Endorsement.” After three rounds of debate and voting, 59% of the 77 paid-up members in the room voted for “No Endorsement,” which was universally understood as a pro-Kshama vote. This was the largest vote ever for Kshama or any left independent candidate, to our knowledge, in the history of Seattle Democratic Party politics.
The final tally was just one vote shy of the 60% threshold needed to make “No Endorsement” the official position of the 37th LD Democrats. But it was nonetheless a powerful demonstration of Kshama Sawant’s support among rank-and-file Democrats as well as a clear rejection of Egan Orion and the outpouring of corporate PAC money behind his campaign.
Distrust in Orion’s claim to progressivism was palpable. For instance, our opponent shocked many with his willingness to use dishonest tactics when he had the audacity to distribute campaign posters across Seattle saying “No to Corporate PAC Money” — even after he applied for the Chamber of Commerce PAC endorsement, interviewed for it, publicly thanked the Chamber for their support, and received the most corporate PAC money of any of the 55 City Council candidates across the city!
Fighting for a Green New Deal
That same night, the Environmental Caucus of the 43rd Legislative District Democrats also met to make their endorsements. With 73% support, Kshama received the highest vote of any candidate in any of the city council races under consideration. This important victory sets up the bigger fight for the endorsement of the full 43rd LD Democrats scheduled for September 17.
The overwhelming support of the 43rd Democrats Environmental Caucus reflects the emphasis Sawant has placed on a Green New Deal for working people to make Seattle 100% renewable by 2030 since the beginning of her campaign, as well as her strong record on environmental issues on the Council. This call is linked to growing grassroots campaign in the city, and Kshama will be participating in an upcoming Green New Deal town hall meeting with District 2 candidate Tammy Morales and District 4 candidate Shaun Scott, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. The forum is linked to a wider effort to build a united front of labor and progressive forces to stop Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce from flipping City Council to the right.
A New Party is Needed
There is a wider significance to the fact that, faced with a choice between an independent socialist fighter for working people and a corporate Democrat backed by Amazon and Chamber of Commerce, a large majority of grassroots Democrats chose the socialist. This underscores the deep class divide opening up with the Democratic Party nationally.
During the debate at the 37th Democrats meeting, one Orion backer angrily threatened to join the Republican Party if his fellow Democrats continued down the road of supporting socialists. At the same time, some of the most active Democrats for Sawant have been quick to tell us they agree that building a broad socialist party for working people is needed.
The increasing class polarization of American politics, from local races all the way up to the presidential elections, is preparing the ground for socialists and working people to build our own mass party in the years ahead.