Why Is a Seattle Politician Campaigning in Portland?

Kshama Sawant gained notoriety in Seattle as the headstrong socialist voice of city council. This Saturday, she's bringing her reelection campaign to Portland.

By Katie Vaughan September 10, 2015

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Kshama Sawant at a really in Seattle

It’s not often that a politician running for election in a different state would bother to campaign in Portland. But Seattle city council member, Kshama Sawant, is doing just that.

This Saturday, Sawant will hold a rally in downtown Portland to benefit her reelection campaign. Our first question was, why? After all, we can’t vote for her.

According to Sawant, it’s about more than just her campaign. “We have to stand together and fight back together no matter where attacks on our rights come about.” The “fight” she’s referring to is working class Americans taking on the big corporations we all love to hate.

Sawant is an intriguing politician for many reasons. Politicians who claim to be “for the people” are a dime a dozen—but Sawant appears to walk the walk. She accepts only a portion of her city council salary, donating the rest of her six-figure wages to social justice movements and she refuses corporate contributions. A supporter of the Occupy movement, she was a particularly loud voice for the $15 minimum wage increase in Seattle, which passed last year and went into effect this April. Sawant says their success inspired similar wage increase movements in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and right here in the Rose City.

According to Sawant, the best way to stand up for working class citizens is to fight big corporations by electing politicians who aren’t in their pockets, especially at the local level. She argues that the success of the $15 minimum wage campaign is a testament to this. “It’s not something that came out of the largesse of the big business establishment or the politicians loyal to them. It came about because of organized grassroots activism.”

Sawant will be discussing a variety of social justice issues at her fundraiser and she’s excited to tailor the conversation to what Portland citizens want to discuss. She says the success of her campaign isn’t just a question for Seattle but could have wider repercussions and she’s looking for support from citizens concerned with these issues all over the country.

“If we win then it establishes the viability of independent, left candidates winning campaigns. The corporations that are funding my opponents, they aren’t just operating in Seattle.”

Sawant will be speaking at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland this Saturday at 7pm.

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