by: Essex Porter Updated:
The first Socialist to be elected to the Seattle City Council, Kshama Sawant, turned the race into a referendum on 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin and the stagnant wages suffered by the working class.
Sawant made raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour a center piece of her campaign.
"We're very serious about building a movement for $15 dollars an hour in Seattle," she said on election night, and she has promised to introduce an ordinance for a $15 and hour minimum wage when she takes office.
"I'm really excited, I think that we are truly at a turning point," said John Burbank of the Economic Opportunity Institute.
Burbank's institute pushed for the Seattle ordinance that requires paid sick days for employees. Richard Conlin was the only "no" vote, but couldn't say that's the reason he lost.
"You know it's really hard to analyze," Conlin said after conceding to Sawant. "I can tell you a story of a few days ago. I got three emails in the space of about an hour. One of them said, 'I'm voting against you because you voted against the arena,' The second one said, 'I voted against you because you supported apodments, and the third one said, 'I voted against you because you voted to ban plastic bags.'"
With a smile on his face Conlin concluded, "It's hard to know exactly how you could come up with the right kind of message."
The minimum wage effort will get a boost from Mayor-Elect Ed Murray. Murray said he wants to move to a $15 minimum wage, but in increments over his first four-year term.
Burbank believes Sawant's victor puts Seattle at the forefront of a growing movement to improve working class incomes.
"I think that we can be a really good model for our state and for other cities across the country," he said.
Conlin said he'll finish out his term then decide what he wants to do next to advance his quest to build a sustainable society.