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Socialist City Council Candidate Scores Big!

In an otherwise ho-hum primary election, the campaign of socialist, feminist, bus-driving unionist Linda Averill stood out like the Space Needle on the Seattle horizon. Latest returns show that Averill’s second run as a Freedom Socialist Party candidate scored an impressive 18 percent, (nearly 16,000 votes), placing third in a four-way race for Seattle City Council Position #4.
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Liberation News was an endorser of Linda Averill's City Council Campaign in Seattle. Her campaign as a socialist of the Freedom Socialist Party in opposition to the Democrat and Republican Parties stands as a positive example of the use of the electoral arena to promote revolutionary socialist politics.

For Liberation News, Steven Argue


Socialist City Council Candidate Scores Big!

In an otherwise ho-hum primary election, the campaign of socialist, feminist, bus-driving unionist Linda Averill stood out like the Space Needle on the Seattle horizon. Latest returns show that Averill’s second run as a Freedom Socialist Party candidate scored an impressive 18 percent, (nearly 16,000 votes), placing third in a four-way race for Seattle City Council Position #4.

The Averill campaign addressed local concerns with bold solutions that focused attention on the injustices of a city where concentrated poverty coexists with Microsoft billionaires and the immense wealth of corporate giants like Amazon.com, Starbucks and Boeing. Rather than running on platitudes and personality, Averill offered concrete anti-capitalist solutions to poverty, discrimination, homelessness, and other ills of the profit-driven economy, and she educated about the need for socialism. Her forthright approach at union meetings, community centers, and candidates’ forums turned skeptics into supporters.

Even the city’s iconoclastic weekly, The Stranger, endorsed Averill as "smart," "independent," and with an "on-message obsession with taxing corporations to support the city's general fund, rather than using the general fund to support big business." Though The Stranger also urged Averill to give up socialism and "run as a Democrat … grow up and join the mainstream," the endorsement is a sign of how much Averill’s message resonated with many who had never before considered voting socialist.

At the election night party at Averill’s headquarters, volunteers and supporters recalled some of the campaign highlights. Nancy Rising, a delegate to the King County Labor Council, told how the labor council came within one vote of endorsing Averill. Part-time Metro driver Joe Kadushin became a volunteer for the campaign after hearing the candidate speak at a meeting of the Amalgamated Transit Union 587. Kaaren Mills, antiwar and disability rights activist, recounted how seniors at a retirement home were turned off by other contenders’ glib assurances and off-base admonitions to questions about how the city would handle a major disaster such as Hurricane Katrina. She said Averill gained the residents’ respect by confirming the need for bus drivers and other city workers to be trained in evacuation procedures and emergency measures.

The campaign inspired homeless advocate and journalist Ray Murphy to write a song to a Monkees’ tune renamed "Please Listen to Linda."

A platform with a difference

Averill raised issues that hit home to local inhabitants, and connected them to the larger national and international scene. She called for city leadership in opposing the Iraq war and contrasted U.S. capitalism’s racist, inept response to Hurricane Katrina with that of Cuba, where islanders are safely evacuated every hurricane season.

"We talked about real needs and the inability of the Democrats that rule our city to meet those needs," she says. The campaign called for rent control, reinstatement of affirmative action, and raising the minimum wage from $7.35 to $17.00 an hour—an amount shown to be the wage needed for a woman with two children to live in the city. She raised the issues of employer-funded childcare, an elected civilian review board over police, outlawing police use of Tasers, banning military recruiters from schools, expanding youth job opportunities, and nationalizing major industries under workers control. To fund such programs, Averill called for taxing "freeloading corporations and billionaires" and revoking handouts to wealthy developers, while relieving the tax burden on small businesses, homeowners, workers and the poor.

A missed opportunity

While Averill sees the primary election results as a significant victory, she points out that divisiveness on the Left led to a missed opportunity to make headline news by sending a socialist to November’s general election. Activists such as anarchist editor of Eat the State, Geov Parrish, the Green Party of Seattle, Dorli Rainey with ANSWER, and Cuba supporter Tom Warner backed one of her opponents, ?ngel Bolaños, a Democrat. Bolaños jumped from the position 8 race to run against Averill in position 4 two months after she had filed. Bolaños finished last at 14%. With Averill only 7% points behind the second contender, Casey Corr, it is likely that a united Left effort would have put her in second place.

"It’s sad," Averill commented, "that while 15,900 Seattlelites were excited to vote socialist, some supposedly ‘progressive’ community activists moved to ensure the Left vote would be divided. Their backing of Mr. Bolaños gave him a radical veneer and helped to split the vote. It also helped guarantee a primary victory for the big money Democrats, Drago and Corr. Without Left collaboration it’s going to be difficult for us to break the lock the major parties have on our ballot box," she concluded.

Ironically, one week after the election, Bolaños, who ran on a slogan of "transparency," was exposed by The Stranger and Seattle Times for plagiarizing whole paragraphs of his platform from the website of a candidate in San Diego—complete with references to the San Diego Chargers football team!

But many voters, community leaders, and labor unions rallied to Averill for raising issues none of the other candidates were willing to talk about, and motivating the need for building movements to challenge unjust laws, rather than simply accepting the status quo. As a result, her campaign gave hope and voice to many voters whose issues are never addressed or even acknowledged by Democrats like Bolaños.

Many milestones

The campaign started off with a victory when the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), in a marked turnaround from Averill’s 2003 campaign, unanimously upheld First Amendment privacy protections for Averill’s donors. The city’s public disclosure law offers such protection to minor parties that can show confidentiality is needed to prevent political harassment of supporters.

With the privacy issue settled, the campaign went full throttle on outreach. Averill ultimately won the endorsements of 21 organizations including eight unions, three women’s groups, and eight socialist or Left groups, including Socialist Alternative, Socialist Action, and Peace and Freedom Party. Ninety-eight individuals endorsed included Naomi Finkelstein, Community Council President of the embattled Yesler Terrace Housing Project; Mark Cook, prisoner rights advocate and former Black Panther; Christina López, Chicana activist and organizer for Seattle Radical Women; Robert Free of the Puget Sound Indian AIDS Taskforce; and 38 rank-and-file unionists.



Averill knocked on doors, walked the picket line with striking Teamsters, visited the city’s sole "urban rest stop" for the homeless, and kept up near-daily speaking engagements and interviews while working as a part-time bus driver throughout most of the campaign.

A reflection of Averill’s strong workingclass constituency is the fact that the campaign raised upwards of $19,000 in donations with more than half the contributors giving $25 or less. These hard-earned dollars allowed the volunteer-powered campaign to mail election information to 37,000 households, produce 800 yard signs, and place ads in eight neighborhood, ethnic, and lesbian/gay newspapers. By contrast her top two opponents who made the general election, incumbent Jan Drago and former mayoral staffer Casey Corr, each raised more than $190,000, and spent more than $85,000 each in the primary. Most of their donors gave between $100 - $399, many of them wealthy developers, CEOs of major companies, and Democratic Party bigwigs.

Only the beginning…

"Change comes from mass movements," says Averill. "So now that the primary is over and voters are again stuck with no real choices, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work on ideas that came up during the campaign such as forming a united front to fight poverty, racism, homelessness and social service cuts." She encourages her supporters to stay active, involved and part of the movement "to birth a better world."

"The message of this campaign was simple but powerful," she told the election night crowd. "Workers know how to run Seattle, our country, the planet, better, more humanely, and more efficiently for the benefit of the whole. The fact that collective action is superior, that the wealth workers produce should be shared for the benefit of all rather than the enrichment of a tiny minority—these are ideas whose time has come."
 
 


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Comments

Linda Averill On The Metro Strike

Steve--

As a Metro bus driver myself, here in Seattle Washington, and also a transit union activist, I thank you for your defense of bus drivers and riders. It is disturbing to see a person use the mantle of a bus riders union to undermine the bus driver’s demands. I've followed other bus rider unions in other cities and they do typically support drivers because they understand we are all in this together. I'd add redirect the Pentagon's budget to expanded mass transit - and yes, affordable or free. And tax the profits of the wealthy corporations to also expand public mass transit. What with global warming it is clear that we need a dramatic shift away from our single-occupancy-vehicle focused system. Moreover, as we saw in New Orleans, many people, especially the poor, don't have cars. And why should those who can't afford cars be condemned to riding a second-class system.

Thanks again for your words of support for the bus drivers.

In solidarity
Linda Averill
 

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