By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Yes!” was how I reacted when socialist Kshama Sawant announced on Jan. 19 that she’s not running for reelection for the Seattle City Council.
I couldn’t believe my ears. This was the moment I’ve been waiting for a long, long time. What a great beginning for the city and the Asian community in 2023, the Year of the Rabbit (in Lunar calendar) or Cat (in Vietnamese culture).
“That’s surprising!” many probably thought.
“You usually support AAPI-elected officials. Sawant is Asian American.”
It may sound funny: I have forgotten that Sawant is Asian. Once, I lamented to my former editor, Stacy Nguyen, that we didn’t have an Asian American on the Seattle City Council. “We need an Asian council member,” I said.
“Isn’t Sawant Asian?” she responded mockingly.
“You are right,” I said. “I couldn’t remember she’s Asian,” as she acts as if the Asian community doesn’t exist. She quickly abandoned the Asian community the day she got elected. I even wrote a few years ago that I was ashamed that she is Asian. Last year, my Indian friend echoed the same sentiment, “I am so ashamed that Sawant is Indian (American).”
That’s tragically comical!
A female Trump, Sawant represents destruction, personal attacks, and negativity. Most Asian community members don’t relate to her if not against her. It’s all her own doing. Sawant wouldn’t return phone calls from our leaders or from anyone in the Asian community, no matter how pressing the problem. But if you call other council members, they respond faster than Sawant, and try to be helpful, too. That’s the way it should be since elected officials are paid by taxpayers.
And Sawant has no respect for any of our community leaders. I witnessed myself how ugly she behaved during John Okamoto’s hearing for a fill-in position for Seattle City member Sally Clark, who had resigned in 2015 and took a position with the University of Washington.
Without verifying facts, Sawant accused Okamoto of corruption—he was one of the most credible and esteemed leaders in our community, a City of Seattle department head three times, the number two guy at the Port of Seattle, and head of the Washington Education Association. That’s rare for Asian Americans in the 2000s. But it was typical of Sawant—she didn’t do her homework and enjoyed lecturing her colleagues or insulting people without reason. Her colleagues instantly defended Okamoto during the hearing, and the Seattle City Council voted him in with five votes.
Sawant never apologized to Okamoto. Graciousness and respect have never been in her blood. Never mind that she is highly-educated, and has a Ph. D. in economics. But her manners, meanness, and rudeness in treating people are worse than those who have less than grade school education.
Any association with Sawant is politically suicidal in the Asian community. Candidates who received an endorsement from her in 2021 lost their election. I have never seen community members so upset seeing her name next to candidates. They instantly write off those candidates without even meeting or talking to them. That’s a crucial lesson for candidates. Don’t just get any name on your website or brochures. The quality of endorsers may be more important than the quantity.
For those who are running for Seattle City Council, think twice about inviting Sawant to endorse your campaign. Stay as far away as possible from her. Listening is an essential attribute for being elected officials, which Sawant never bothers to do. What does it mean to represent your district (of which Sawant has done a lousy job)? Find out exactly what your district needs, and not what you want. Remember, you represent everyone in your area, and not just a special group. It’s your job to bring people together and work to find common ground and solutions for the greater good, and not against each other. Sadly, that’s what Sawant is fabulous at—promoting conflict and confrontation in the city.
Focus on collaboration with other council members to solve your district’s problems. Don’t make the same mistakes as she has done—burning all the bridges. District 3 deserves someone better than Sawant.
“Is Sawant done politically?” someone asked. As Clark Gable said in the movie “Gone with the Wind” at the end, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.