FSP candidate Averill offers “ideas that make sense”

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Freedom Socialist Party candidate Linda Averill’s run for Seattle City Council has been different. And exciting. On September 20, Averill will know if she’s earned one of two slots to advance to the general election. But the bus driver, journalist, and feminist organizer already considers the campaign a success.

Since announcing her candidacy for Position 4 in April, Averill has attended four house parties, marched in four parades, taken part in a dozen campaign forums, sat down for numerous interviews, and canvassed door to door throughout the city.

However, a Linda Averill potluck doesn’t consist only of the candidate standing up, talking about herself, and collecting money. Those in attendance most likely already know the campaign basics. Averill wants to raise the minimum wage to $17 per hour, tax freeloading corporations, implement rent control and make children’s welfare a city priority by mandating employer-funded childcare.

Thus, at a recent party in a North Seattle home, Averill opened the floor to discussion.

People talked about housing shortages, dwindling wages and how Seattle’s political establishment caters primarily to big business. A similar scene unfolded a few weeks later when Averill attended a potluck supper hosted by union activists.

“We’ve had good discussions. We’re organizing people beyond the campaign,” says Averill. “People at these gatherings want to meet again.”

A dialog with working people. Regardless of the event, Averill always winds up in conversation with somebody, often somebody she’s never met before, finding out about his or her problems, and offering a solution whenever she can.

Amazingly, she can do this even in a parade. Most politicians march in the center of the street hoping that no one will yell any bad names at them; Averill is off in the crowd, shaking hands with people, and sometimes stopping to chat for a minute or two. Invariably she realizes that the rest of her contingent is a block down the street and she has to catch up.

Just as important, people are listening to Averill.

“When I go to a Democratic Party forum and tell people I’m a Freedom Socialist, they look at me kind of funny. Then they start hearing me talk about free mass transit, expanding public housing, and creating an elected civilian review board over the police, and I see them start nodding their heads in agreement with what I’m saying.”

Allen Thompson of Stand Up Seattle! (part of the Nader/Camejo campaign in 2004) has known Averill for 20 years. He accompanied her as she canvassed in Seattle’s workingclass South End.

“We talked to seven people in depth and three of them took yard signs,” says Thompson. “One of the people knew Linda from her transit union activity; the others didn’t know her, but quickly warmed up. Some were impressed that they were talking to the actual candidate. And Linda’s able to bring up ideas in a way that makes sense. She’s genuine, unassuming and unpretentious, so people listen to her.”

Averill has proven to be a strong labor candidate, endorsed by a number of unions. Among the latest are the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 15, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 17, the King County Juvenile Detention Guild, and Service Employees International Union Local 6.

Says SEIU local president Sergio Salinas, “For us, it makes sense to support a candidate who is willing to fight for the interests of the low-wage workers we represent. Many of our workers don’t earn livable wages and benefits.”

Support from left groups has also been notable, including endorsements from the Peace and Freedom Party, Socialist Action and Socialist Alternative.

A campaign that’s rich in ideas: priceless. The differences between Averill and her three opponents for Position 4 were clear when the candidates appeared on a recent radio program.

City Council President Jan Drago, the longtime incumbent, talked about how the council wasn’t responsible for the city’s problems. “Mayor’s candidate” Casey Corr, a former advisor to Mayor Greg Nickels, criticized Drago but didn’t offer many ideas of his own. And Angel Bolaños, a self- proclaimed progressive Democrat, spoke in generalities.

When it was time for Averill to speak, she rattled off clear, concise answers to each question. And it’s worth mentioning that although Seattle council races are nonpartisan, Averill quickly identified herself as a Freedom Socialist representative, as always.

Regardless of the election outcome, Averill feels she’s made a difference. “People are discontented. I believe that by running, it is giving people an alternative and inspiring the hope that things can be better.”

R.V. Murphy, a journalist for almost 20 years, writes freelance on social and political issues and can be reached at raymurphy12@yahoo.com.

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