It appears Seattle voters have not followed the desires of big corporate campaign spending and have elected a city council that many consider even more progressive than the current council.
On Saturday, Kshama Sawant declared victory in her reelection bid following an apparent last minute surge in voter support in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election. She took the opportunity to answer a question that was on the minds of many during what appeared to be her victory speech: will there be a return of the head tax?
She gave every indication that a tax on big business could be resurrected early next year.
“Looks like our movement won,” Sawant told the media in front of a backdrop of supporters holding a huge "Tax Amazon" banner.
“We defended our socialist city council seat for working people against the richest man in the world,” Sawant said.
She’s referring to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Amazon contributed $1.45 million to CASE, the political action committee for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. CASE supported seven business-friendly candidates in the primary and general election.
Sawant was not one of those candidates. But as soon it was announced Amazon had contributed $1 million to CASE in October, it caught national attention. Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren tweeted criticisms of the contribution alleging Amazon was trying to buy the election.
But a week after the election, it appears only two of the seven candidates that CASE endorsed won their elections with only incumbent Councilmember Debora Juarez having won endorsement from both CASE and labor-friendly PACs.
Sawant is now asking fellow council members to enact a tax on business when the new council meets early next year.
“To urgently pass a strong tax on the largest businesses in the city like Amazon,” she said which generated a big cheer from supporters.
It was an embarrassing moment for Sawant’s efforts to convince the city that a employee hours tax on big business was needed when she was shouted down by construction workers yelling "no head tax" The impromptu chant reflected a mood change that lead to and adoption of the tax, but then a repeal. The money would have gone toward affordable housing but critics said it lacked spending plan.
Now Sawant feels the election has emboldened a move to bring the tax back, but not necessary as it was proposed.
“The overall city council election results were as close of a referendum on the Amazon tax as possible,” Sawant said.
Mayor Jenny Durkan had initially supported the tax. She tried to broker a slimmer version of it and then eventually support its repeal. While not addressing the change in the council’s make up or a big business tax, she said in a statement “I look forward to working with the new Councilmembers in the New Year to tackle these challenges, seize our opportunities, and continue to build a city on equity and shared prosperity.”
Sawant will have a new ally in newly-elected District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales who the mayor referred to as a socialist.
Morales has not minced words that she supports new forms of revenue such as a head tax as well a possible tax on large inheritances, high salaries, companies that pay their CEOs excessively and the sale of mansions.
Sawant and her supporter have a new Facebook page called "Tax Amazon."