“One thing I remember and heard from many city officials is that they felt I had strong leadership skills and the ability to make a real impact from within. Binda said.
A vacant seat on Lynnwood City Council was on the ballot, and Binda considered running. As a student who, if elected, would likely be the youngest black man to hold office in Washington, the odds were stacked against him. He entered the race, positioning himself as the progressive choice.
While Binda contemplates a career in politics for himself, he maintains that he will not become a “career politician”. This label, never popular, is particularly harmful to young Americans whose reluctance to vote stems in part from disenchantment with electoral politics. Binda is part of a new generation of activists turned politicians, a generation that has yet to show that it can translate their activism into action once elected.
Binda won the August primary elections, and he won big. In a three-way primary, he got 45.5% of the vote, edging out second place former board member Lisa Utter by 16 points. In a recent phone interview with Crosscut, Binda said he owed much of that victory to his supporters. The people who knocked on doors, put up signs and got the biggest sigh of relief on the night of the Great Victory, Binda says, were all young. Many had never voted before.
“It’s something I love about my campaign: I’ve seen so many young people inspired to vote,” Binda said.
“I’m not showing up for the office; I don’t run for the money, ”he continued. “I run to make a difference, I run to be an agent of change.”
Young people seem to gravitate towards the agents of change. A February 2020 Economist / YouGov poll showed that nearly two-thirds of Democrats under 30 supported progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary. And yet the American people elected Joe Biden, who has been climbing the political ladder since 1972.
Binda is not the only one seeking to be an outsider in a system that has disappointed him. Activist and progressive politicians are bringing radical ideas to mainstream conversation in Seattle this election cycle: Andrew Grant Houston took the advice of Black Lives Matters protesters and proposed a 50% cut to the Seattle Police budget in of her failed primary race for mayor, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, whose goals include abolishing prisons, won her primary for Seattle City Lawyer and Nikkita Oliver, who finished first in a council primary Seattle City Council, pleads for repairs for the Black Seattlites.
Not so long ago, Pete Holmes was the daring challenger with the endorsement of The Stranger, Seattle’s irreverent left-wing newspaper, to be the city’s district attorney. In the current electoral cycle, Holmes, who was running for his fourth four-year term, was a symbol of the status quo and was attacked and ultimately defeated by opponents to his left and right. Even what was once shiny, shiny, and new can darken when in place.
“Career politicians start out as individuals who want to make a difference, who are natural leaders in their communities,” said Preston Sahabu, a politically connected community organizer in Seattle. “And when they’re elected, they think the way to gain power is to play nicely with the establishment.”
Sahabu worked on Kshama Sawant’s campaign challenging State Representative Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, in 2012. Sawant, a socialist now on Seattle City Council, lost that challenge to Chopp, who was then president of the Chamber at Olympia.
In 1974, 20 years before his election to the legislature, Chopp was living in a Seattle parking lot protesting the affordable housing bulldozer in South Lake Union. He rented a booth for $ 10 a month and, with the help of his father, set up a geodesic dome to call home for a few months. That parking lot has since been converted to low-income housing for women and children, Chopp said. He is convinced that he is still in touch with his militant roots after all these years.