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Kshama Sawant

Kshama Sawant
Kshama Sawant taking part in a march from SeaTac to Seattle supporting a $15 per hour minimum wage.
Seattle City Council, Position 2
Assumed office
January 1, 2014
Preceded by Richard Conlin
Personal details
Born 1973
Pune, India[1]
Political party Socialist Alternative
Spouse(s) Vivek Sawant (separated)
Alma mater North Carolina State University (Ph.D.), University of Mumbai (B.Sc)

Kshama Sawant ()[2] is a Seattle City Council member.[3] A former software engineer from India, Sawant became a socialist activist and part-time economics professor in Seattle after emigrating to the United States. She held part-time teaching positions at Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University[4] and was a visiting assistant professor at Washington and Lee University.[5] Sawant ran unsuccessfully for the Washington State House of Representatives before winning a seat on the Seattle City Council, making her the first socialist to win a city-wide election in Seattle since the radical progressive Anna Louise Strong was elected to the School Board in 1916.[3][6][7]


  • Personal life and education 1
  • Candidacies 2
    • Washington State House of Representatives 2.1
    • Seattle City Council 2.2
      • Campaign issues 2.2.1
      • Endorsements 2.2.2
  • Political positions 3
    • Involvement with Occupy 3.1
    • Economic policies 3.2
    • Environment, education, and immigration 3.3
    • Rejection of major political parties 3.4
    • Opposition to US support of Israel 3.5
  • Arrest 4
  • Electoral history 5
  • Notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Personal life and education

Sawant was born to Vasundhara and H. T. Ramanujam in

  • Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council Position 2 at
  • Entry at VoteSmart
  • Campaign website
  • Socialist Alternative
  • King County government voters pamphlet

External links

  • Socialist: No longer such a dirty word. MSNBC, November 15, 2013.
  • A Rare Elected Voice for Socialism Pledges to Be Heard in Seattle. The New York Times, December 28, 2013.
  • A Socialist Elected in Seattle: Kshama Sawant on Occupy, Fight for 15, Boeing’s "Economic Blackmail". Democracy Now! January 6, 2014.
  • I Wear the Badge of Socialist With Honor. The full text of the new Seattle city council member’s inauguration speech. The Nation, January 8, 2014.
  • Learning from a Socialist in Seattle. Al Jazeera America. May 21, 2014.
  • Pune-born socialist Kshama Sawant scores for Seattle: Record $15 an hour minimum wage for workers. The Times of India. June 3, 2014.
  • Meet The Socialist Who Championed Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage. The Huffington Post. June 4, 2014.
  • Socialist City Councilmember on Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai: "Socialism is the Only Answer" Democracy Now! October 13, 2014.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Lewis Kamb (August 11, 2013). "Growing wealth gap spurs on socialist in Seattle council race". The Seattle Times. 
  2. ^ James O'Toole (24 June 2014). Meet the Marxist behind Seattle's wage hike. CNN Money. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Connelly, Joel (November 14, 2013). "Socialist Sawant wins City Council seat".  
  4. ^ Kshama Sawant. "Candidate Personal Financial Affairs Statement". SeattleMet. 
  5. ^ Lynsi Burton (November 13, 2013). "Sawant increases lead on Conlin in Seattle council race".  
  6. ^ a b c Kshama Sawant. "Elderly Labor Supply in a Rural, Less Developed Economy: An Empirical Study. (Graduate thesis)".  
  7. ^ a b Seattle elects first socialist City Council member. King5. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  8. ^ Brian M. Rosenthal (October 11, 2013), "Shen, Sawant look to shake up city council from opposite sides: Two challengers in races for Seattle City Council would bring differing perspectives, but face uphill battles to unseat incumbents",  
  9. ^ a b "Extended interview: Kshama Sawant".  
  10. ^ Maria La Ganga (November 20, 2013). "Socialist to occupy Seattle City Council".  
  11. ^ Josh Eidelson (November 18, 2013). "Capitalism is a "dirty word": America's new socialist council member talks to Salon". 
  12. ^ Erica C. Barnett. "Isn't It Weird That...A weird thing we noticed about "99 percenter" and socialist city council candidate Kshama Sawant.". SeattleMet. 
  13. ^ Matt Taylor (28 April 2014). Is Seattle's Socialist City Council Member Going to Show Us How to Ditch the Two-Party System? Vice. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "KEXP interview with Kshama Sawant".  
  15. ^ Clark, Robert L. (2003-03-27). "Financial Education and Retirement Savings" (PDF). Retrieved 9/4/2012. 
  16. ^ Brian M. Rosenthal. "Richard Conlin making issue of Kshama Sawant's voter registration".  
  17. ^ "Washington socialist candidate wins suit to state party preference".  
  18. ^ "Legislative District 43 : Rep Position 2". King County Elections. State Legislative Races Results, November 2012 General Election. November 28, 2012. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ "Police serve warrant in May Day investigation - Local". 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  21. ^ "The Student Debt Explosion: The New Indentured Servitude?". OlyBlog. 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  22. ^ "Occupy Capitol Hill | All-night ‘teach in’ at Seattle Central | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle". 2011-10-30. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  23. ^ a b c Manuel Valdes (November 16, 2013). "Socialist Kshama Sawant wins Seattle City Council seat". Associated Press. 
  24. ^ Connelly, Joel (November 6, 2013). "McGinn concedes; other losers concede nothing". Seattle Post Intelligencer. 
  25. ^ Martha Kang and Manuel Valdes. "Conlin Concedes to Socialist Sawant in Seattle Council Race". 
  26. ^ Dorpat, Paul (January 1, 1999), Now & Then -- Seattle's Front Street (now 1st Avenue); Essay 2585,  
  27. ^ Stripling, Sherry (August 15, 2004), "Coming home to Carkeek - Carkeek Park, celebrating its 75th birthday, has seen some hard times. But thanks to dogged supporters, it is a refuge for nature, and nature lovers, in the city",  
  28. ^ Ryan Buxton (1 May 2014). Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Councilwoman: McDonald's Doesn't Need Time To Phase In $15 Minimum Wage. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  29. ^ Speech by City Councilmember Sawant on $15 Victory. Socialist Alternative. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g "Kshama Sawant Speech at Vote Sawant election night party 11/6/2012". Socialist Alternative. 
  31. ^ Ross Reynolds and David Hyde (November 18, 2013). "Kshama Sawant Is A Socialist But What Does That Even Mean?". KUOW. 
  32. ^ a b Kevin Roose. "Meet the Seattle Socialist Leading the Fight for a $15 Minimum Wage".  
  33. ^ a b c d e f g "Sawant Campaign Issues Page". 
  34. ^ a b c Kshama Sawant (July 27, 2012). "What Our Campaign Stands For".  
  35. ^ Palash Ghosh. "Kshama Sawant: A Socialist, Indian-American Woman Running For Seattle City Council… And She May Win".  
  36. ^ Young, Bob (August 6, 2013). "For Seattle council: Conlin against Sawant, O'Brien against Shen". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  37. ^ Jeff Black (27 January 2014). Seattle's Socialist councilwoman to accept less than half of $117K salary. NBC News. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  38. ^ Matt Driscoll. "Mike O'Brien Expected to Make 'Significant Statement' In Support of Sawant". Seattle Weekly. 
  39. ^ Stranger Election Control Board (July 17, 2012). "Endorsements for the August 7 Primary Election".  
  40. ^ Isolde Raftery. "Why Socialist Kshama Sawant's Campaign Matters, Win Or Lose".  
  41. ^ Deborah Wang. "Activist Democrats Support Socialist Candidate Kshama Sawant".  
  42. ^ Matt Driscoll. "Sawant Lands Tom Morello/Serj Tankian 'Axis of Justice' Endorsement". Seattle Weekly. 
  43. ^ a b Socialist Alternative. "Speech: Relevance of Socialism in Seattle today". YouTube. 
  44. ^ Socialist in Seattle: Kshama Sawant’s revolution, the indigenous fight against Keystone XL. Breaking the Set on RT. Retrieved 7 February 2014
  45. ^ Brian M. Rosenthal (July 31, 2012). "Council hopeful Sawant arrested during anti-eviction protest".  
  46. ^ a b Sarah Stuteville (October 30, 2012). "You might be a socialist if... An interview with Kshama Sawant". Seattle Globalist. 
  47. ^ Gary Horcher (November 19, 2013). "Seattle City Councilmember-elect shares radical idea with Boeing workers".  
  48. ^ Chris Legeros (November 18, 2013). "Longshot winner of Seattle City Council seat warns of struggle ahead".  
  49. ^ Josh Eidelson (18 November 2013). "Capitalism is a "dirty word": America's new socialist council member talks to Salon". Salon. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  50. ^ United States: Seattle socialist Kshama Sawant defeats Democrat incumbent. Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  51. ^ "“They don’t have the courage”: How the two-party system aided Israel disaster". 2014-08-09. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  52. ^ "Ambassador of Israel to US says Seattle's Kshama Sawant will have to retract statements - Blog". 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  53. ^ "Seattle council member Sawant arrested in minimum wage protest". November 19, 2014. 
  54. ^ King County (26 November 2013). "Election Results". p. 46. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  55. ^ King County (24 November 2009). "Election Results". Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  56. ^ "Washington House of Representatives elections, 2012". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  57. ^ "Washington House of Representatives elections, 2008". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 


Washington House of Representatives, District 43b, General Election, 2012[56][57]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frank Chopp 49,125 70.6% -16.2%
Socialist Alternative Kshama Sawant 20,425 29.4% N/A
Majority 28,700
Turnout 69,550
City of Seattle, City Council, Position 2, 2013[54][55]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Nonpartisan Kshama Sawant 93,682 50.67% N/A
Nonpartisan Richard Conlin 90,531 48.97% -28.26%
Write-ins 665 0.36% +0.04%
Majority 3,151
Turnout 184,878

Electoral history

On November 19, 2014, Sawant was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct at a $15 minimum wage protest in SeaTac, Washington. [53] She was released on $500 bail.


During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Sawant urged the Seattle City Council to condemn both Israel's attacks on Gaza and Hamas's attacks on Israel, and called on President Obama and Congress to denounce the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and, in an extraordinary statement for a US politician, to cut off all military assistance to Israel.[51] This prompted a response from Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, calling for Sawant to retract the statement.[52]

Opposition to US support of Israel

Sawant has encouraged other left-wing groups, including Greens and trade unions, to use her campaign as a model to inspire a much broader movement in 2014:

Sawant said she rejects working within the Democratic and Republican two-party system, and says socialists should campaign as a third party:

Rejection of major political parties

Sawant advocates for a moratorium on deportations of illegal immigrants from Seattle and granting unconditional citizenship for all persons currently in the United States without citizenship. She opposes the E-Verify system.[33][33][34][46]

She opposes the Measures of Academic Progress test in public schools, and supported the teachers' boycott of the standardized tests.[33] Sawant has called for a revolt against student debt saying that "the laws of the rich are unenforceable if the working class refuses to obey those laws."[30] She is an active member of the American Federation of Teachers union[43] and has been critical of American labor union leadership, saying the leadership, " the last 30 years has completely betrayed the working class. They are hand in glove with the Democratic Party, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into their campaigns, and they tell rank and file workers that you have to be happy with these crumbs..." Sawant believes the American Labor movement should break with the Democratic Party and run grassroots left-wing candidates.[30]

Sawant opposed the construction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel calling it "environmentally destructive" and "something most people were against, most environmental groups were against".[14]

Environment, education, and immigration

In her most recent campaign, Sawant called for large Seattle companies such as Starbucks and Amazon to be unionized.[33] In previous campaigns, she has advocated the nationalization of large Washington State corporations such as Boeing, Microsoft, and[34] and expressed a desire to see privately owned housing in "Millonaire's Row" in the Capitol Hill neighborhood turned into publically owned shared housing saying, "When things are exquisitely beautiful and rare, they shouldn't be privately owned."[46] During an election victory rally for her City Council campaign, Sawant criticized Boeing for saying it would move jobs out of state if it couldn't get wage concessions and tax breaks. She called this "economic terrorism" and said in several speeches that if Boeing moved jobs out of state, the workers should take over Boeing facilities and bring them into public ownership. She has said they could be converted into multiple uses, such as production for mass transit.[47][48] Sawant also supports single-payer health care.[33] Sawant maintains that a socialist economy cannot exist in a single country and must be a global system just as capitalism today is a global system.[49]

Economic policies

Before running for office, Sawant received attention as an organizer in the local Dorli Rainey on July 31, 2012 for blocking King County Sheriff's Deputies from evicting a man from his home.[45]

Involvement with Occupy

Kshama Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative party, the United States section of the British-based Committee for a Workers' International (CWI). She has referred to herself as a Marxist.[30][43] Sawant has stated that she does not advocate for any system like the "bureaucratic dictatorship" of the former Soviet Union, but for democratic socialism meaning "the society being run democratically in the interest of all working people on the planet, all children - everybody who has needs, and all that being done in an environmentally sustainable manner."[44]

Political positions

[42].Serj Tankian frontman System of a Down and Tom Morello guitarist Rage Against the Machine Celebrity endorsements included [41] Sawant received no endorsements from sitting Council members but councilor


On the topic of public transit, Sawant has advocated for expanding bus and light rail capacity with a millionaire's tax and for what she calls "transit justice" which includes eliminating user fares, increasing services to the poor, especially communities in south Seattle, and not providing any more transit options to communities who "can afford other options" until that happens.[14][30][33][34] She said that, if elected, she would donate the portion of her salary as a City Council person which exceeds the average salary in Seattle.[35][36] On 27 January 2014, she announced that she would only accept $40,000 of her $117,000 salary.[37] She currently places the rest into a self-administered political fund which she uses for selected social justice campaigns.[32]

She is also a supporter of expanding public transit and bikeways, ending corporate welfare, ending racial profiling, reducing taxes on small businesses and homeowners, protecting public sector unions from layoffs, living wage union jobs, and social services.[33]

The core issues of Sawant's campaign were a minimum wage increase to US$15/hour, a "millionaire's tax" or income tax on wealthy Seattleites, and rent control.[23] Sawant said rent control is "something everyone supports, except real estate developers and people like Richard Conlin..." and compared the legal fight for its implementation to same-sex marriage, and the legalization of marijuana in the United States, both of which she supports.[14][30] Her campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage has been credited for bringing the issue into the mainstream and attracting support for the policy from both Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle Mayor Elect Ed Murray.[31] In response to criticism that a $15 an hour minimum wage could hurt the economy, she said, "If making sure that workers get out of poverty would severely impact the economy, then maybe we don't need this economy."[32]

Campaign issues

Sawant declared a victory in May 2014 after Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced an increase in the minimum wage to $15, which was the cornerstone of her campaign for City Council, but she is not pleased that large corporations will be allowed a few years to phase in the wage hike.[28] During a speech at the City Council on the day of the vote she said, "We did this. Workers did this. Today’s first major victory for 15 will inspire people all over the nation."[29]

Sawant's victory made her the first socialist to win a city-wide election in Seattle since the radical progressive Anna Louise Strong was elected to the School Board in 1916.[3][7] and the first socialist on the City Council since A. W. Piper, elected in 1877.[26][27]

After losing her run for the House, Sawant entered the race for Seattle City Council with a campaign organized by Socialist Alternative.[14] She won 35% of the vote in the August primary election, and advanced into the general election for the at-large council position 2 against incumbent Richard Conlin, making her the first socialist to advance to a general election in Seattle since 1991.[23] On election night early vote counts showed Sawant down by 6,193 votes but late ballots consistently favored her.[3][24] On November 15, 2013, Conlin conceded to Sawant after later returns showed him down by 1,640 votes or approximately 1% of the vote.[3][25]

Seattle City Council

The Sawant campaign criticized the raiding of Occupy Wall Street activists' homes by the Seattle Police Department's SWAT team.[19][20] She also advocated on LGBT issues, women's issues, people of color issues and opposed cuts to education and other social programs.[21] She gave a teach-in course at an all-night course at Seattle Central Community College.[22]

Sawant was a candidate for the Socialist Alternative party for Position 1 in the 43rd District of the Washington House of Representatives, representing Seattle. Sawant advanced past the primaries with a write-in win for Position 2, while also advancing in Position 1 where she was on the ballot challenging Jamie Pedersen. Sawant successfully sued the Washington secretary of state for the right to list her party preference, Socialist Alternative, on the November ballot.[17] Sawant challenged incumbent house speaker Frank Chopp in the general election on November 6, 2012. Sawant received 29% of the vote, losing the race to Chopp's 70%.[18]

Washington State House of Representatives



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