Council Member Kshama Sawant
  • Kelly O
  • Council Member Kshama Sawant

This week brought the news that Alison Holcomb, criminal justice director of our state's ACLU and the author of the state's medical marijuana law, is mulling over a challenge to city council member Kshama Sawant in the 2015 council district elections. Sawant and Holcomb both reside in newly created city council District 3, the Capitol Hill district, and Sawant has already filed to run for that seat.

Holcomb told the Seattle Weekly that Sawant's rhetoric during the $15 minimum wage debate and the way the minimum wage fight went was part of what spurred her to seriously consider a run; Holcomb's husband owns the bar Witness on Broadway. "You don't effect change without a broad coalition," Holcomb told the Weekly regarding Sawant. "And her rhetoric is all about 'you are a capitalist pig,' no matter what the size of your business."

What does Sawant think of all this? I spoke to her in her City Hall office this afternoon, she responded politely. "All the work that was done on the marijuana legalization front was very admirable," she said of Holcomb. "I supported that initiative, and I really appreciate all the activists and people who worked on it, including Alison Holcomb."

But what about Holcomb as a potential council challenger? "I don't know if it makes sense for someone who's progressive to run against the progressive members of the council," she said. "I'm going to expect challengers from the business establishment to challenge me because of our success on [the $15 minimum wage]... But if she wants to work on a progressive agenda, then I invite her to work with those of us who are already working on it."

And what of Holcomb's accusation that Sawant has failed to build a "broad coalition"?

"If we hadn't built strong coalitions, we wouldn't have won $15," she answered succinctly. "The question is who you're building coalitions with." She says she and her allies on the minimum wage built broad coalitions among labor, community organizations, organizations representing people of color, and "everybody who is willing to fight for social justice."

Sawant has also released a statement to media since Holcomb's announcement, saying her "focus right now is on winning progressive funding for saving Metro, addressing skyrocketing housing costs, and rent stabilization which would help both low-income people and small businesses."

We have questions in to Holcomb as well to ask more about her potential campaign. Stay tuned.