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    Conlin concedes defeat in council race against Sawant

    After watching his election night lead slip away, the four-term councilman bows out of the race against his Socialist opponent.
    Richard Conlin concedes

    Richard Conlin concedes Matt Fikse-Verkerk

    Four-term Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin on Friday conceded defeat in his re-election campaign against Socialist challenger Kshama Sawant.

    Since last week, late-arriving ballots have steadily eaten away at Conlin’s 7.5 percentage point election night advantage. Almost every daily vote count released after Election Day favored Sawant and by Friday afternoon she was ahead by a margin of 1,640 votes. The latest results in the race showed Sawant with 50.3 percent of the vote and Conlin with 49.36 percent.

    “Unfortunately it appears that my opponent has received the greater number of votes, and we do not at this point see a realistic path to success,” Conlin said at a press conference held in a second floor hallway at City Hall. “I formally concede the election to Ms. Sawant. I hope she will serve the people of Seattle effectively.”

    Conlin said that while he wanted to continue his work in public service, he did not expect to run again for public office.

    Asked about Sawant’s Socialist party affiliation, Conlin said: “I think people of Seattle, generally, when they think of Socialism, we think of Sweden and that’s not a bad model.”

    “I don’t think socialism necessarily makes most people in Seattle afraid,” he added.

    Sawant, an economics instructor at Seattle University, ran on promises of fighting for a $15 minimum wage, rent control and a “millionaires” tax. She has said she wants to implement the $15 wage in 2014; Mayor-elect Ed Murray has indicated that he favors a more gradual approach. And the idea is certain to provoke strong business opposition.

    Shortly after Conlin conceded Sawant issued an emailed statement. “While I do not agree with Richard Conlin’s political positions, I respect that he served on the City Council for 16 years,” the statement said. “These exciting results show a majority of voters are fed up with the corporate politicians who have presided over the widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us.”

    Sawant is likely the first Socialist elected to the Seattle City Council. Scott Cline, a staff member at the Seattle Municipal Archives, said he examined records dating back to 1910 and could not find another example of a self-described Socialist who won a council seat.

    Video from Robert Mak

    First elected to the council in 1997, Conlin served as council president from 2008 to 2011. Currently he is chairman of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee, where he has overseen density increases in a number of neighborhoods, and in recent years he has championed local food production and environmental sustainability initiatives.

    Several councilmembers released statements shortly after the press conference that praised Conlin for his work on the council. “Councilmember Conlin has been a mentor to me since I was elected to the Council in 2007,” Councilman Tim Burgess' said. “I will miss his wisdom.”

    Conlin said it was difficult to know why exactly he had not garnered enough voter support to win the race.

    “Two days ago I got three emails,” he said. “One of them said, I’m voting against you because you voted against the arena, the second one said I’m voting against you because you supported apodments, and the third one said I voted against you because you voted to ban plastic bags.”

    “You know,” he said. “It’s hard to know exactly what happened.”

    Bill Lucia writes about Seattle City Hall and politics for Crosscut. He can be reached at bill.lucia@crosscut.com and you can follow him on Twitter @bill_lucia.

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    Posted Fri, Nov 15, 7:53 p.m. Inappropriate

    New blood in the council is good news. The only problem is that system only got one liter when it needs five. Maybe by the next election cycle there will be more candidates like Sawant involved in the process.

    It isn't difficult to understand why Conlin lost. He lost his way and forgot why he was elected in the first place. He faked it for a couple of election cycles and the voters caught on, so down the road he goes.


    Posted Fri, Nov 15, 8:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    On the one hand, we reject a noisy activist Mayor, and on the other we elect an even noisier "socialist" councilmember who is certain to out-PC our already ultra-politically correct council. While she will provide amusement with provocative remarks, her unrealistic positions are sure to marginalize her influence.....she will either be reigned in, or serve one stormy term....

    Posted Fri, Nov 15, 8:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    My money's on one stormy term. Conlin was a good, reasonable, progressive (by all standards but a socialist's) councilmember. He will be missed.


    Posted Fri, Nov 15, 10:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    Being a good reasonable progressive doesn't necessarily qualify one to be an effective council member. Good reasonable progressives are a nickel/hundred in Seattle but a loud brawling well educated socialist is rare. She might work out very well. Besides the people have spoken, they want to try a loud brawling socialist for term.


    Posted Fri, Nov 15, 10:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    Here's what I'd like to find out: Did Sawant win or did Conlin lose? Were the voters really driven by the issues that Sawant's campaign focused on (income inequality, rent-is-too-damn-high, etc)? Or were they just sick of Conlin and willing to vote for whoever was against him? As in any two-way race, I'm sure it was a mix of both, but I'd like to see data on it.

    Jon Sayer

    Posted Sat, Nov 16, 2:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    In the absence of statistically valid polling or exit-polling what data could there be? Some clues might become apparent when the precinct level canvass is published by King County Elections in early December.


    Posted Mon, Nov 18, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    My completely unscientific impression is that both Conlin and McGinn lost, as opposed to Sawant and Murray winning. But yes — we'll have a much better idea when we get precinct-level data.

    Posted Sat, Nov 16, 12:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    Seattle deserves her.

    Posted Sat, Nov 16, 11:59 a.m. Inappropriate

    Underlying Sawant's message was a clear understanding that our economy is not working for middle and low income people which is most of us. Income inequality has become so huge that it can hardly be denied any more. A raise in the minimum wage would serve as a modest stimulus to our local economy. A tax on millionaires to pay for transit may sound radical but really it is not. In fact, better public transit would benefit everyone rich and poor alike for a number of reasons.

    Sawant's willingness to risk arrest to keep people in their homes is both brave and rational. The banks have been sitting on TARP funds (our tax dollars) instead of helping people restructure their mortgages so they can stay in their homes. That is the fault of the banks and our federally elected "representatives" who did not put any teeth in the legislation to require that the banks use the funds as Congress intended.

    So, Sawant's message may sound radical but only because our system is so far out of whack and, yes, Richard Conlin is right, Swedish socialism would be great.


    Posted Sat, Nov 16, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    A tax on millionaires does not sound radical. It sounds illegal. We can't do it for the same reason we can't have rent control. They are forbidden by state law.

    That is one reason why this election bothers me so much. If she really was running to the left of Conlin it would be interesting. But most of her proposals are simply impossible. She could easily propose things that the council can actually do -- like liberalize zoning laws even more, which would lead to more apartments (which would lead to lower rents). But she didn't. She promised rainbows and unicorns. The council has no control over one -- and the other doesn't exist.


    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 6:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yeah, right. Because no law has ever been changed, at any time ever.


    Posted Sat, Nov 16, 7:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    On the same day as his press conference, Conlin also sent out an email message to recipients of his online newsletter. It said, among other things, "I am formally conceding the election to Ms. Sawant."

    "Formally"? What does that mean? Was he wearing a tuxedo?

    One of the complaints I've heard about Conlin is that he had become 'arrogant' and was growing out-of-touch with Seattle voters. Certainly, by 'conceding' such a tight race, he seems to be indicating that it is up to the candidates themselves--rather than the voters who elect them--to decide who will occupy these public offices. I think, under such circumstances, he should have had both the good grace--and, yes, HUMILITY--to allow the ballot counting process to go all the way to the end before conceding.

    There is nothing really legal or constitutional about these 'concession speeches.' I don't care about appearances of politeness or 'good grace,' and the long drawn-out process of tabulation under our ill-conceived all mail-in ballot system shouldn't make any difference here: it's the will of the voters--as reflected in a full and complete tabulation of their votes--that counts in any democracy, and is what must always be respected.

    Posted Sat, Nov 16, 8:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    Seattle elects a socialist. Ho-hum. Just one more panel in the comic book.


    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 3:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Kshama Sawant may be the first socialist elected to the City Council, but she isn't the first elected to a city office in Seattle. Socialist, and later Communist, Anna Louise Strong was elected as the only woman member of the Seattle School Board in 1916. A graduate of Oberlin College, she had earned her Ph.D. at 23 from the University of Chicago. The year she was elected to the School Board she was hired as a stringer for the New York Evening Post to report on the violent struggle between the Industrial Workers of the World and the hired thugs of the Everett mill owners, which led to the Everett Massacre.

    Despite Mr. Conlin's side remarks about socialism in Sweden -- more accurately described as social democracy -- Ms. Sawant and her backers stand proudly in the revolutionary socialist tradition of which Anna Louise Strong was a part. It included the Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia, but also many home-grown American rebels like Ms. Strong, Big Bill Haywood, James P. Cannon, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Paul Robeson, Mother Jones, John Reed and others. That having been said, there is no reason why that variety of socialism should necessarily make most people in Seattle afraid either, especially the young and middle-aged. The days of the Cold War were dead and gone before many of them were even born.

    The Bolshevik experiment with working class control of the economy and society -- an important part of the tradition to which Sawant and Strong belong -- may have become corrupted and ended in failure, but in its early years it was a creative, exciting and earth-shattering event, and an inspiration to members of the I.W.W. and others in the American labor movement. It occurred under radically different circumstances, in a radically different time and place, and still may have lessons to provide, both in what and what not to do, for people who are serious about changing society and another system which, to many of us, has obviously failed.

    As a new immigrant and American citizen who has distinguished herself as a scholar, a high-tech professional who has probably passed up a more lucrative and comfortable lifestyle to be an activist in Occupy Seattle and a proponent of other causes, like affordable housing and a living minimum wage, which further economic justice, Tshama Sawant should be a vibrant addition to Seattle's City Council. Clearly she presents a welcome alternative to the stale politics generated by corporate and financial manipulation of both major political parties. Many of us from around the country and the world are waiting and working for this phenomenon to catch on elsewhere.

    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 3:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    How soon people forget. There are two kinds of socialism: social democracy, as in, the models in Sweden et al that Conlin refers to (see also Bernie Sanders and the English/French non-Marxist traditions), and revolutionary socialism, that which is inspired by Karl Marx, VI Lenin, Kautsky, Leon Trotsky, Mao Tse Tung, James P Cannon, and in contemporary terms, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and our very own Kshama Sawant.

    Russia had for six months prior to the "second" Bolshevik revolution the first social democracy to ever exist in Russia to date, along with factory democracy that was unheard of anywhere except in the preambles of radical labor unions like the IWW. VI Lenin proceeded to dismantle that tenuous government and dissolve the factory committees, overthrowing them by coup, while the Red Army commanded by Trotsky mowed over anyone who would dare object--instituting a non democratic proletarian dictatorship under control of a Party elite in favor of "true socialism". "Rights" like speech and assembly were vestiges of the old bourgeois order, you see. Both Leninists and Trotskyites to this very day will justify that it was okay to murder thousands of Russians in defense of "the revolution". This mentality evolved to its logical conclusion under Stalin; latter day Trotskyists think that Stalin's legacy is somehow disconnected from that of his predecessors. It is a sick joke.

    Any socialist who prays at the altar of Lenin, Trotsky, or even Marx alone takes two tacks on this: they defend the brutality and mass murder as a gross but necessary utilitarianism, or they wash over and say "oh, well, mistakes were made, this time will be different". Time and time again this kind of socialism always evolves toward repression and despotism. Advocates only point to people like Chavez because that hasn't played itself out yet. Yet, we should ignore the mass killings and starvation under Mao and Pol Pot, the massive imprisonment and deaths under Stalin, and all of the above under Lenin. Trotsky merely criticized the former because he didn't get the piece of the action he felt he was entitled to. He was the victim of his own ideology with an ice pick.

    Democratic Socialists believe that they can get into power enough to grind the machinery of "bourgeois democracy" into ineffectiveness and then hammer from without by "mass movement" a coup for the proletarian dictatorship. Next time you see "Socialist Alternative" or any other of these alphabet soup socialists peddling their tabloids, ask them about any of this, and watch them recoil and do back flips defending their religion.

    If Sawant plays true to her base, she will disrupt for the next two years. If she turns into a "moderate" there is nothing particularly socialist about her, and her base will denounce her. Heads we win, tails she loses.

    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 9:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    Socialism is about economics more than politics. Saying that social democracy in inconsistent with Marxism is missing the point that much (most?) of Marx's analysis was primarily about economics. To this day Marx's analysis of the inherent flaws in capitalism has the ring of truth. Cf. the neo-Marxists and World-Systems Analysis (and especially Wallerstein).

    IMO, the (post?) modern dialogue about political economy should be on how to construct an equitable economy (socialism) while maintaining the benefits of small scale capitalism (inventiveness, incentives to "get rich" and efficiencies of production and distribution) in a maximally democratic polity. The "get rich" part is the biggest problem because accumulations of money (capital) become nodes of power, and can easily overwhelm (or "buy") democratic institutions. This process of wealth concentration in the few (1%) is exactly what has been happening in America for the past half century.

    An earlier drift toward corporatism in America was interrupted by the Depression, New Deal and post war boom. Historical memory is short in the U.S.; we were very close to complete oligarchy in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Now we are very close to a more modern form of corporatism. As Mussolini wrote, "corporatism is the corner stone of the Fascist nation, or better still, the Fascist nation is corporative or it is not fascist" ("il corporativismo è la pietra angolare dello Stato fascista, anzi lo Stato fascista o è corporativo o non è fascista").

    The more inequitable the economy gets, the less democracy there is. Martin Luther King recognized that racism could not be banished until economic equity was achieved. It was this very recognition that caused his life to be taken from him; the "Poor Peoples' March" [NOT just "Poor Black People"--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_People's_Campaign] was scheduled for the very month of his assassination. When push comes to shove, the oligarchs can and will be very nasty. Overreactions such as Lenin and Stalin may be difficult to avoid, but we must try.

    Every middle class and poor person in Seattle should be supporting Kshama Sawant's efforts to bring a socialist agenda forward at the Seattle City Council. If she fails the alternative is more of the same drift into oligarchy and away from democracy. And more upheaval and social disintegration.


    Posted Mon, Nov 18, 7:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Overreactions such as Lenin and Stalin may be difficult to avoid, but we must try."

    That's not a risk that I, or most other people, are willing to take. But thanks for illustrating my entire point.

    Posted Mon, Nov 18, 8:35 a.m. Inappropriate

    What risk aren't you willing to take? Continuing with a failing system that generates extreme inequity and promotes all sorts of terrible human health results including psychotic rage, or trying to transition to a political economy that promotes equity with democratic governance? You really don't have much choice because the current system is clearly not sustainable.


    Posted Mon, Nov 18, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    Stop digging please.

    Posted Tue, Nov 19, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Dear captains of industry, travel & transport, lords of finance, market speculators, broadcast media bull dogs and poodles, tell us sirs, how will YOUR/OUR inexorable globalization combustion of all combustable fuels end?

    Consider a Bell Curve diagram:

    At the far left are local neighborhood economies, too small to take advantage of mass production. At the far right is the Global Economy, distances too far, gains in mass production lost in cost/impacts of transport. Ideal efficient economies are metropolitan area regional and State levels.

    Globalization undermines lesser scales of economy - National, State, Regional, Local.
    How the hell do you like that economic lesson, global jetsetting industrialists digging madly away at a future others agree coal, tarsands, frack and pipeline operations must eventually minimize. Operation planned reductions. How do you like that for a headline " " \^: -(edit)

    Support ANYONE with a realistic economic plan to reduce emissions and VMT.
    ALL Seattle plans and planners are NOT working, obviously, inexplicably. Who gives a damn which corrupt city councilmember continues pretending their public service doesn't put corporate servitude ahead of public interest?

    "The fascist state is Corporatist, or, it is not Fascist"


    Posted Tue, Nov 19, 10:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    Wells: One source says the quote in my longer post -- "il corporativismo è la pietra angolare dello Stato fascista, anzi lo Stato fascista o è corporativo o non è fascista" ["corporatism is the corner stone of the Fascist nation, or better still, the Fascist nation is corporative or it is not fascist"] -- is more accurate. Perhaps someone fluent in Italian could provide a better translation. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America:_Freedom_to_Fascism#cite_note-25
    That footnote takes you to a Google digitization of a book in Italian:


    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 7:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    It's interesting that on the one hand, Mrs. Sawant decries capitalism and income inequality. On the other hand, she is married to a husband who earns six figures working for the world's richest man.

    I guess you really CAN have it both ways. "Do as I say..."

    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 9:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    Do you realize how tired this false claim is? As Sarah points out below. Here, from October 10: http://www.votesawant.org/sawant_responds_to_conlin_attacks


    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 5:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    Sawant has been separated from her husband for some time and does not receive any of his salary. That's been explained in several publications before the election, which you either didn't read or have ignored.


    Posted Sun, Nov 17, 5:39 p.m. Inappropriate

    As far as Sawant's base, I'd think that most people who voted for her are her base. That means that either those people are all crazy revolutionaries or (like me) they are non-revolutionaries who think she has some good ideas and Conlin was completely out of ideas.


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