Kshama Sawant, a socialist member of Seattle's city council, said Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign has helped build "enormous momentum" for progressive change in the Pacific Northwest city.
Sawant, who first won her city council seat in 2013, was re-elected to the position this week. In an interview with the Guardian Friday, she praised Sanders for highlighting issues that other Democrats have failed to emphasize, such as income inequality.
“When was the last time you heard a presidential candidate say we need a political revolution against the billionaire class?" Sawant said. "It's absolutely true that Bernie Sanders putting these questions on the national agenda has really created, and will continue to create, enormous momentum."
Sawant said Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, helped draw attention to her re-election fight.
"There were so many people who said, 'I wasn't paying that much attention to Seattle politics but I’ve been listening to Bernie Sanders' politics. I've been so excited by his call for a political revolution against the millionaire class and I’m looking around me and thinking I need to get involved at a local level,'" she said.
Sawant garnered national attention for her successful push to raise Seattle's minimum wage to $15 an hour, an issue she campaigned on in 2013. The city council passed the hike in 2014, and the law went into effect earlier this year, making Seattle the first major American city to adopt a $15 wage floor.
"This did not happen because the government suddenly decided to care about workers," Sawant told The Huffington Post earlier this year. "We made it happen. We left them with no choice. They could either support us or be swept aside into the dustbin of history. That is how it's going to be."
Sanders, meanwhile, has called for a federal minimum of $15 an hour.
Sawant also praised Sanders during her election night party on Tuesday, calling 2015 a "new chapter for the American socialist movement."
"There has never, ever been a better time to become a socialist,” she said, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "We have shown how working people can stand up to the billionaire class and its establishment. We can and must rely 100 percent on our own strength as working people."
While Sanders is unafraid of labeling himself a democratic socialist, his campaign has stressed he is running as a Democrat in the 2016 campaign. He has also acknowledged it might not be the easiest label for Americans to embrace.
"I think there are a lot of people who, when they hear the word 'socialist,' get very, very nervous," Sanders said last month.
He is planning to address those anxieties in a speech sometime after the next Democratic debate, during which he'll explain his beliefs and show how the political philosophy has shaped his policy work.
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