Ex-State Democratic Party Leader Unnerved by Sawant’s Victory

Paul Berendt, the longest serving Democratic Party chairman in the nation when he stepped down eight years ago, is having a hard time coming to grips with Seattle’s newly elected socialist councilwoman.

“When I stepped down in 2006, I saw nothing but blue skies for the state party. And now I feel differently,” Berendt tells Seattle Weekly. “A lot of my liberal friends are gleeful over (Kashama) Sawant’s victory. But I see it as a dark cloud for the party.”

Berendt is a mainstream Democrat, a centrist to his core, who grew up on a cattle ranch in northeast Washington’s Pend Oreille County. During his 11-year tenure, Washington became the only state in the nation’s history to elect two women senators and a woman governor.

Now working at Strategies 360, a public affairs firm in Seattle, Berendt was not at all thrilled to hear of Sawant’s clenched fist pumping inaugural speech in which she proclaimed, “In this system the market is God, and everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit. Capitalism has failed the 99 percent.”

Says Berendt: “I am not a socialist. I am a Democrat.”

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