From left: Kshama Sawant, Judge Michael Trickey, and Sawant's attorney, Knoll Lowney
Secretary of State Sam Reed was wrong to block a Socialist Alternative candidate from stating her party preference on the general election ballot, King County Superior Court judge Michael Trickey ruled this morning. He announced from the bench that both Reed and King County Elections must allow Kshama Sawant's socialist party affiliations to appear after her name.
Which makes this the political equivalent of a man-bites dog story.
On national stages, candidates are attempting to brand their liberal opponents with Socialist affiliations like it's a pox; in this case, Sawant—and her courtroom full of supporters—want you to know they are part of a marginalized third party. So will this ruling cost her votes in the 43rd District, running against Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp?
"It is not clear that it will or won't cost votes," said a beaming Sawant after Judge Trickey announced his decision. "The question comes to mind because Socialism has been maligned." The whole point of running—because an election victory is unlikely—is letting "people know what socialism actually is," she says.
The case arose, as we've breathlessly reported and reported and reported, after Sawant filed as a Socialist to run in another race in the same district for the primary election. But after The Stranger instigated a write-in campaign against Chopp, she got enough votes to switch positions and challenge Chopp in the general election.
An attorney for Secretary of State Reed, Rebecca Galsgow, told the court that the Washington Administrative Code is unequivocal that write-candidates who make it to the general election but haven't file a declaration of candidacy in that race, can't have a party preference. The ballot must say "states no party preference." Since Sawant had declared her candidacy in a different race, she couldn't roll over her party affiliation in the general election. "It is true that sometimes candidates have buyers remorse about which position they have chosen," said Glasgow. Her point was that candidates must gauge where the will garner the most support when filing their candidacy—not afterward.
But in the end, Judge Trickey sided with Sawant's lawyer, Knoll Lowney. Trickey said that the administrative code in question "doesn't govern the situation," that Sawant had stated her party preference when declaring her party preference in the primary election, and that she had no opportunity to refile her party preference when switching races. As a result, a different rule—the rule that allows candidates to switch races in the first place—should be interpreted so that to "she should be allowed to state her party preference on the ballot."
Will it matter in terms of votes? Probably. And this will probably win more votes for Sawant. This is a certifiable win, elevating an unknown candidate with a credible court victory, more press coverage, and increased name recognition.