SEATTLE – A former community college professor who won a surprising citywide election was sworn in Monday as the first socialist City Council member in Seattle’s modern history.
Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative party took her oath and served in her first hearing, then gave a speech to throngs of supporters in a ceremonial swearing-in at a packed City Hall.
“I will do my utmost to represent the disenfranchised and the excluded, the poor and the oppressed, by fighting for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, affordable housing, and taxing the superrich for a massive expansion of public transit and education,” said Sawant, 41.
Even in the liberal city, Sawant’s win surprised many. The incumbent, Richard Conlin, was backed by the political establishment. But bolstered by a grass-roots campaign that harped on economic inequality, Sawant toppled the 16-year incumbent.
“Here in Seattle, political pundits are asking about me: Will she compromise? Can she work with others? Of course, I will meet and discuss with representatives of the establishment. But when I do, I will bring the needs and aspirations of working-class people to every table I sit at, no matter who is seated across from me,” she said.
Seattle City Council staff estimate she is the first socialist to be elected to office in 100 years.