Kshama Sawant’s District 3 seat was supposed to be easy pickings in November, 2015. I wouldn’t exactly call it conventional wisdom, but a lot of Democratic establishment types sure seemed to have convinced themselves that the socialist city council member was a wacky, one-hit wonder who voters would quickly tire of. The chamber was preparing to spend big to take her down, and serious candidates like the ACLU’s Alison Holcomb were being recruited. This was going to be easy.
Well, not so fast. As PubliCola reported last week, a new poll by respected firm EMC shows Sawant with some of the highest approval ratings on the council. Citywide, Sawant enjoys a 50 percent “favorable” rating, second only to Nick Licata’s 51 percent. And within her district, Sawant’s favorable stands at a remarkable 61 percent, well above Licata’s 46 percent second place showing.
Critics will point out that at 30 percent citywide and 21 percent within District 3, Sawant also has the highest unfavorable rating. But at 80/82 percent city/district, she also has the highest name ID as well. Voters know Sawant. And despite all the Democratic eye-rolling, they’ve overwhelmingly made up their mind in her favor.
Personally, I was never all that concerned. District 3 was Sawant’s best district in her 2013 at-large victory, and while she might not match the chamber’s war chest, she’d certainly be able to raise the $250,000-plus necessary to get her message out. From everything I’ve heard, Democratic efforts to peel labor support away from Sawant have so far proven fruitless. And of course, everybody continues to underestimate the impressive (and increasingly sophisticated) ground game that Socialist Alternative is putting together. Really.
A lot can change in a year. But there’s an argument to make that at this point in time, Sawant looks like the least vulnerable incumbent of them all.