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Seattle activist launches independent Senate campaign
A challenge to the status quo

March 17, 2006 | Page 2

JESSE HAGOPIAN reports on an independent left-wing campaign for Senate in Washington.

AARON DIXON, a community activist for over 40 years and former head of the Seattle Black Panther Party, announced his plan to run for the U.S. Senate from Washington.

Dozens of supporters and news media packed the conference room at the Cannon House Assisted Living Residence in the Central District of Seattle to see Dixon launch his campaign. Running as the Green Party's candidate, he will be challenging incumbent Maria Cantwell, a Democrat elected by a razor-thin margin six years ago.

Speaking in front of a screen displaying the numbers of dead Iraqis and U.S. soldiers, and that constantly updated the financial cost of the war in Iraq, Dixon said, "Not only has Ms. Cantwell continued to support the war in Iraq, but she also has sided with John Ashcroft in using fear to rush through the so-called Patriot Act. And she recently voted for its renewal for four more years. I am running to bring the troops and the military equipment home now, and to use the billions of dollars in the war chest to rebuild America."

Referring to the recent polls indicating that a majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq, Aaron vowed to his supporters, "We will organize a grassroots movement throughout this state that will serve notice to all politicians that the will of the people must be recognized, or you will be voted out of office."

Dixon's bid for the Senate is only the latest act in a lifetime of struggle for justice. By age 21, Aaron had marched with Martin Luther King Jr., founded the original Black Student Unions at Garfield High School and the University of Washington, and formed the first chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Seattle.

In 1968, during a visit to Seattle, Black Panther Party Chair Bobby Seale appointed Aaron Dixon to head the party's Seattle chapter--the first chapter outside of California.

As a member of the Panthers, Dixon helped found and implement five breakfast programs for low-income children, the first food bank in Seattle, the first free health care clinic (what is today known as the Carolyn Downs Clinic); he was also behind bringing the first Black Studies program to the University of Washington. Dixon moved to Oakland for some time, where he built the local chapter of the Panthers, worked on Bobby Seale's campaign for mayor, and served as Elaine Brown and Huey P. Newton's bodyguard.

Since the demise of the Panthers, Dixon has worked with youth in gang and drug rehabilitation. Currently, he is the executive director of Central House, a nonprofit Seattle organization that serves youth in a variety of ways, including providing transitional housing, and teaching leadership skills and media literacy.

Dixon's campaign for Senate is certain to receive local attention, since the race between Cantwell and Republican challenger Mike McGavick is expected to be close. But Dixon is already attracting the support of important Seattle community leaders.

Former Seattle School Board member, current PTSA president and local counter-recruitment icon Amy Hagopian announced her support for Dixon. "As an elected Democratic Party precinct committee officer, I am endorsing Aaron Dixon for Senate," Hagopian said. "I wish Maria Cantwell was an antiwar candidate, but she's not. We need an antiwar candidate. I think she's a better Senator than her Republican opponent will ever be, but voting for war is an immoral act, and I can't do it. It's a violation of my beliefs, my status as a mother, and my profession as a public health worker."

As with Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo's 2004 presidential campaign, the mainstream media are repeating the mantra that Dixon is a "spoiler" by taking votes from Cantwell.

But as Dixon's wife and campaign press liaison Farah Nousheen pointed out, "What the spoiler argument is really saying is that if you are against the war, you can't have a candidate. If you are against the tax breaks for the rich, you can't have a candidate. If you are against the Patriot Act, you can't have a candidate. We won't let them silence us--we have a candidate now."

Other community leaders agree that Dixon isn't a "spoiler"--and is, in fact, a voice for justice in a two-party system that has shut off debate about the war in Iraq and continues to do the bidding of corporations.

Speaking at Dixon's press conference, Dustin Washington, program director of the American Friends Service Committee's Cross-Cultural Youth Leadership Development and Action Program, brought the crowed to its feet when he declared, "The majority of the Democratic Party and Republican Party have proven themselves unfit to govern...Based on Cantwell's record of supporting war, it is clear that it is time for a change...It's time to send Maria Cantwell back into the private sector, and it's time to elect Aaron Dixon as our next United States senator."

For more information about Aaron Dixon's campaign, go to www.aarondixon.org on the Web.

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