Progressive Activist Nikkita Oliver To Challenge Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

Nikkita Oliver — a Seattle-based activist, educator and attorney — will be challenging incumbent Ed Murray in the city’s mayoral race. The Seattle Times has referred to Oliver as Murray’s “highest-profile challenger so far as he seeks a second term.” Oliver officially kicked off her campaign with an event on Sunday night.

Oliver announced her candidacy on March 8, with the South Seattle Emerald being the first news outlet to cover it. The Emerald‘s Marcus Harrison Green noted that Nikkita Oliver had also been a boxer and poet, in addition to her work as an organizer and educator. The Emerald ran a lengthy interview with Oliver in which the candidate discussed her decision to run, her platform and concerns she had about Ed Murray’s tenure as mayor.

Green specifically asked Nikkita Oliver about possible criticism from the left for running against Murray since he has “expressed a commitment to safeguarding the city’s immigrant communities, proposing his Our Best initiative for the Black community, and so on?”

Oliver’s response suggested that she feels Murray has not followed through on many of his promises and that some of the policies he does pursue may not be the best for the community, particularly its more marginalized and vulnerable members.

“Starting with Our Best, which is just a carbon copy of [President Barack Obama’s] My Brother’s Keeper initiative, how many times have we tried it?” Oliver asked.

“Is it an effective policy strategy that can be implemented so that it truly changes the experience of Black folks in Seattle, or is it a hot button phrase?”

Oliver argued that there needs to be more People of Color in the city hall to help address issues of housing, education, income inequality and the school-to-prison pipeline. However, she emphasized that while some communities may feel the impact of these issues more than others, all of Seattle’s citizens are effected by them, particularly the economically disadvantaged.

“And it’s not just Black folks being pushed out. White folks are losing their homes too. I think I can talk about this issue as Black, as a woman, and as just a human. Skyrocketing property taxes and rents mean all people who are not making enough money will be pushed out, white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander – those of us who are cash poor will not be living in this city. Nor will any of the artists, who made Seattle the cultural hotbed that it is, be living here.”

Nikkita Oliver is running as a member of the newly-formed People’s Party, which describes itself as a “community-centered grassroots political party led by and accountable to the people most requiring access and equity in the City of Seattle.”

Like Oliver herself, the People’s Party platform focuses on homelessness, affordable housing, and public safety, police and education reform. The party and its candidates vow to accept no donations from corporations.

Oliver has already earned the backing of some major players in Seattle’s progressive community, with city council member Kshama Sawant offering her support and speaking at Oliver’s campaign kickoff event Sunday night.

“We need a mayor who knows fighting racism does not mean reciting platitudes on MLK Day,” Sawant said at the event, according to tweets sent out from attendees.

During the event, donations poured into to a fundraising page set up by the campaign, with donations reaching almost $14,000 of the campaign’s $100,000 goal by the time the event ended.

Murray is a Democrat who has advocated for Civil Rights during his time as mayor and as a member of the Washington State Senate prior to that. He is openly gay and has pushed for reform for LGBT issues.

However, his critics from the left, such as Oliver, see him as an establishment candidate who has not done enough to address the city’s economic troubles, which have been magnified in recent years by a growing tech industry that is causing housing to become unaffordable for many of the city’s poor and working class.

Murray has also been criticized by progressives for the city’s crackdown on homeless people, which was called the “most aggressive” in the nation by Think Progress and resulted in thousands of homeless people receiving fines of up to $5,000. He also pushed for a law that would allow police to search the homes of semi-automatic rifle owners once a year without a warrant.

Both Nikkita Oliver — who has worked with local Black Lives Matter and No Youth Jail groups — and the People’s Party do not see contributing to the prison-industrial complex as a means of addressing community issues.

“We cannot arrest our way out of unaddressed social problems,” Oliver said at Sunday’s event.

[Featured Image by Karen Ducey/Getty Images]