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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 30, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Socialist candidate wins right to call herself that on the ballot

Kshama Sawant, a socialist candidate running for the state House of Representatives, won a suit in the King County Superior Court to state her party preference — the Socialist Alternative Party — on the ballot in November.

The state Secretary of State’s Office had previously stated that Washington’s election rules prevented Sawant from identifying with her party on the ballot, due to the odd circumstances in which she advanced to the general election.

Sawant had filed to run for the Position 1 seat in the 43rd Legislative District in Seattle, challenging state Rep. Jamie Pedersen, Democrat. But she ended up coming in second in the Position 2 race — in which The Stranger newspaper had endorsed her as a write-in candidate, challenging House Speaker Frank Chopp, Democrat — as well as the Position 1 race.

State election rules allowed Sawant to decide which race she wanted to run in. She has decided to face Chopp in November.

But according to the Secretary of State’s Office, election rules prohibited write-in candidates such as Sawant from stating the party they preferred on the ballot, even if they had declared a party preference in a separate election.

Sawant, a professor of economics at Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College and an activist with the Occupy Seattle movement, disagreed. So she sued Secretary of State Sam Reed and the King County Elections office.

On Thursday, Judge Michael Trickey ruled that the state had to include Sawant’s party preference on the ballot.

Philip Locker, Sawant’s political director, called the ruling “a victory for grassroots, independent, left-wing candidates.”

And the Secretary of State’s Office indicated it would abide by the ruling.

“Our office respects the judge’s ruling,” Brian Zylstra, a spokesman, said in an email. “We will include Kshama Sawant’s party preference in the statewide Voters’ Pamphlet and we expect King County Elections will include her party preference on its General Election ballot this fall.”

Comments | More in homepage, Politics Northwest, Secretary of State, State Legislature | Topics: frank chopp, King County Superior Court, kshama sawant

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