In among all the noise surrounding high-profile events, we should take some time to celebrate some progressive wins that have gone under the radar. In a race for the Seattle city council, Amazon poured in a lot of money to defeat a socialist candidate Kshama Sawant who had been advocating for policies that would put a tiny, tiny dent in that corporate behemoth’s profits. They of course could not let that stand and backed a rival candidate. But after initially seeming to be losing, Sawant pulled out a win.
In a blow to Amazon, the socialist candidate Kshama Sawant appeared on Saturday to have beaten the business-backed Egan Orion for a seat on Seattle city council, despite an unprecedented financial effort from the tech giant.
Amazon is headquartered in the city. It ploughed $1.5m into the city council election through a political action committee sponsored by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
Civic Alliance For A Sound Economy dispensed about $440,000 in support of Orion and backed six other candidates considered business-friendly. In 2015, according to the New York Times, Amazon and its employees only contributed about $130,000 to city council candidates.
Four other candidates endorsed by the Civic Alliance For A Sound Economy also seemed set to lose. Phil Tavel, Heidi Wills, Mark Solomon and Jim Pugel trailed their opponents by at least 6%, with Solomon down by about 20%. Two candidates endorsed by the Pac, Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez, had substantial leads.
A win for Sawant would give her a third term. She has been a fierce critic of the influence of big business on Seattle, and helped lead the push last year for the head tax, a per-employee tax on large corporations that was repealed a month after passing unanimously.
On Saturday, Sawant said she planned to continue her battle for a tax on big business. Orion does not support the head tax.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Chesa Boudin won a race for District Attorney in San Francisco on a platform promising to overhaul the criminal justice system. He defeated appointed incumbent Suzy Loftus who was backed by the Democratic party establishment.
Boudin, 39, has said growing up with incarcerated parents motivated him to study law and reform the criminal justice system. In 2002, the Yale grad and Rhodes scholar told the Guardian: “Growing up in a household where people have a political consciousness, where people think and care deeply about political issues has an impact on you.”
He was raised by two other well-known Weathermen, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.
Loftus was appointed by Mayor London Breed last month, after George Gascon announced he was resigning and moving to Los Angeles to explore a run for DA there. Loftus was endorsed by the Democratic establishment, including California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, and the US senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, for whom she worked when Harris was San Francisco DA.
Boudin received high-profile support from the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and the writer and civil rights activist Shaun King. Congratulating Boudin, Sanders tweeted: “Now is the moment to fundamentally transform our racist and broken criminal justice system by ending mass incarceration, the failed war on drugs and the criminalization of poverty.”
The DAs have enormous power in the criminal justice system in the US and increasingly progressives have targeted those races as a means of curbing the widespread abuses against poor and minority communities. Bernie Sanders has thrown himself into that effort.