UPDATE: Councilmember Mike O’Brien called Seattle Weekly back this evening to offer clarification on what his “significant statement” tonight in support of Sawant will be. According to O’Brien, the statement will fall “short of an endorsement.” Instead, according to O’Brien, he’ll tell those on hand at UW that having third-party candidates like Sawant and other outside voices involved in the electoral process is a positive thing, and helps push issues to the forefront of political discussion that might not otherwise get there - like, for instance- the $15 an hour minimum wage debate that Sawant has helped champion.
This evening at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Washington’s Miller Hall, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Mayor Mike McGinn and City Council candidate Kshama Sawant are scheduled to appear to discuss “the threats they see posed to Seattle and Washington by climate change and the role that policy makers need to play to address climate justice,” according to a press release from the Sawant campaign. The event is hosted by Confronting Climate Change (CCC), Divest UW, the Student Association of Green Environments (SAGE) and UW Earth Club.
It’s an intriguing lineup, for a number of reasons. But the biggest may be what might come out of O’Brien’s mouth. According to a member of Sawant’s media and communications team, O’Brien is expected to make a “significant statement” in support of the Sawant campaign this evening. Asked whether that means an endorsement, the source said she didn’t have any details, but she “hopes so.”
Reached for comment, Sawant Communications and Fundraising Director Geov Parrish confirmed that the Sawant campaign expects O’Brien to make a “significant statement” at the UW tonight, saying “I probably shouldn’t say any more.” We’ve called O’Brien for comment and will update this post accordingly when he gets back to us. (UPDATE: See above.)
If O’Brien does endorse Sawant - a big if - it would make for an interesting play. Hell, even if O’Brien’s expected statement in support of the Sawant campaign constitutes everything short of an endorsement (which seems far more likely, given the circumstances), it will still be newsworthy. While five members of the City Council endorsing McGinn’s mayoral challenger Ed Murray was somewhat predictable, a Council colleague of four-term incumbent Richard Conlin endorsing (or vocally supporting) his Socialist Alternative challenger would not be. Should Conlin prevail, and should O’Brien best his challenger, Albert Shen, it would no doubt make for some awkwardness in Council chambers over the next four years.
That said, O’Brien looking to get in on the excitement created by Sawant’s grassroots campaign could also be very shrewd. Despite his liberal credentials, O’Brien’s campaign has largely been under the radar this season. If he’s feeling any heat at all from the Seattle Times-endorsed moderate Albert Shen, then getting in on some of the Sawant mojo could be beneficial.
And what about the other speaker tonight, Mike McGinn? According to campaign staffer Aaron Pickus, he’s not aware of any plans for O’Brien to issue a “significant statement” in support of Sawant, and the mayor is “not planning anything like that.”
Whatever happens tonight, it’s safe to say it’s been a solid week for the Sawant campaign. The Socialist Alternative candidate was endorsed by Former King County Democratic Party Chair Daniel Norton and current 37th LD Democratic Party Vice-Chair Jeanne Legault this morning at an event at City Hall, and, according to a press release issued this afternoon, the Sawant campaign has now raised more than a $100,000 and attracted over 300 volunteers.