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Socialist Kshama Sawant moves ahead in Seattle City Council race

With a few exceptions, socialist candidates don’t win elections in the U.S. But the first socialist to make the Seattle City Council general election in more than 20 years has a shot at victory.

College economics instructor Kshama Sawant said she’s just giving voters what they want: a real choice.

“There was a recent poll that showed that 60 percent of Americans are fed up with the two party system and want an alternative.”

Sawant ran for the state Legislature in 2012 and lost to House Speaker Frank Chopp before challenging 16-year city council incumbent Richard Conlin. It’s a surprisingly close race. Latest results on Wednesday showed Sawant leading the race by 402 votes.

“They think that business as usual is going to work for everybody and that people are just going to go like sheep to the polls and vote for the same old incumbents who are completely unresponsive to the needs of the people,” said Sawant.

In her campaign against Conlin, Sawant got traction with an issue on the ballot in nearby SeaTac, a $15 minimum wage.

“We have been able to completely shift the political debate in this election year so much so that the mayoral candidates were forced to talk about $15 an hour and the new mayor has promised to talk about $15 an hour and we are going to hold him to that promise,” said Sawant.

Conlin held a 13-point lead after the primary election and Sawant doubts her campaign was taken seriously by her opponent.

“I think the whole establishment is going to take grassroots campaigns and movements for granted until they are going to wake up and figure out that, wow, indeed, times are changing,” Sawant predicted.

We reached out to the Conlin campaign Tuesday for this story, but got no response.

The race is so close that both campaigns are urging supporters to check on their ballots to make sure they were counted.

“We’ve got dozens and dozens of people writing back on social media saying ‘I checked my ballot and there was some problem with the signature and I called King County and they’re going to make sure it gets counted,”‘ said Sawant.

It’s not clear how many ballots remain uncounted, but the county will not certify the election until November 25.

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