As Election Day draws near, a lot is at stake for working people in Seattle. But the outcome of Seattle’s City Council race will also reverberate in communities across the nation who want their city government to serve its constituents instead of corporate interests.

By making it the cornerstone of her platform in the 2013 City Council race, Kshama Sawant created the political will in a city controlled by the Democratic Party to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. The Democratic establishment wouldn’t have got there on its own.

Sawant won the election for District 3, unseating a 16-year incumbent Democrat and making her the first independent Socialist in decades to be elected in a major U.S. city.

After years of stagnant wages and an ever-increasing cost of living, Sawant's minimum wage initiative was tremendously popular with working class voters. To maintain their image as the “progressive” party, Democratic mayor Ed Murray and the rest of City Council had no choice but to get on board with a city charter amendment to raise the wage to $15.

The Democrats did what they could to dilute the legislation, introducing a phase-in and other loopholes to soften the impact on corporate profits.  But it was passed in June 2014 largely unscathed.

Since the victory for $15 Sawant has had a target on her back. She didn’t endear herself to the political establishment by keeping her campaign promise to live on an average skilled worker’s wage and donate the rest of her salary to building social justice movements. Sawant invited her fellow Council members to do the same, but none of them acted on the invitation. Sawant’s colleagues decided to keep all of their $120,000 a year salaries.

Rent control is a central demand of Sawant’s re-election campaign for November. As in cities across the country, gentrification in Seattle has pushed working class people out of their neighborhoods, while skyrocketing rents have made housing unaffordable.

Of course this has incurred the wrath of the real estate industry. $140,000 in donations from big business has gone to Sawant’s Democratic opponent Pamela Banks. And now a PAC linked to the Republican Party has targeted Sawant’s campaign, bringing in over $10,000 in a single day to sponsor attack ads against Sawant. The Republicans and Democrats serve the same corporate masters.

In contrast, Sawant’s campaign accepts no corporate cash, leaving her free to fight for the 99% instead of the 1%. She depends entirely on donations from individuals who want to keep a committed, principled Socialist in office.

Sawant’s re-election is a key test for the Left. Is the progress being made in Seattle sustainable? Or will a Socialist be unseated by the onslaught of corporate cash?

If you want to see the political landscape transformed in your town, the Seattle City Council race matters to you. Please donate to Sawant’s campaign today to help fund a rapid response on the ground in District 3 to counter the corporate offensive against working people in Seattle.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant with Nicole Grant at the Seattle City Council swearing in ceremony January 6, 2014 at Seattle City Hall. (Wikimedia Commons)