Seattle Socialist Elected To City Council, Wants $15 Minimum Wage, Higher Taxes On Rich

A Seattle Socialist is ready to take public office after voters ousted a longtime incumbent and elected her to office.

Kshama Sawanta was a surprising candidate not only for his Socialist affiliation but for the long odds she faced. Her opponent, Richard Conlin, was a 16-year incumbent who had the backing of the city’s political establishment.

On election night, it appeared that the Seattle Socialist had fallen short. When the night ended, Sawanta found herself four percentage points behind Conlin.

But as all the votes were tallied over the course of the next few days, Sawant began to cut into Conlin’s lead and eventually overtook him.

Many political followers say the win as a surprise even for Seattle, a liberal city in one of the most solidly blue states in the nation.

Her opponent didn’t seem to agree.

“I don’t think socialism makes most people in Seattle afraid,” Conlin said Friday.

The Seattle Socialist also becomes one of the first major candidates to emerge from the Occupy Wall Street protests. The 41-year-old economics professor rose to prominence during the protests in late 2011 and made her first bid for office in 2012, but lost easily to the leader of the State House, a Democrat.

Sawant hopes to see the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour in the city and has supported a millionaires tax to fund a public transportation system.

“I will reach out to the people who supported Richard Conlin, working with everyone in Seattle to fight for a minimum wage of $15 (an) hour, affordable housing, and the needs of ordinary people,” Sawant said in a statement.

The reaction to the Seattle Socialist was immediate. Many conservatives criticized both her plans for tax increases and the voters of Seattle for choosing her. Others compared her unfavorably to President Obama.