Washington Supreme Court allows Kshama Sawant recall petition to move forward

Apr 1, 2021, 6:20 AM | Updated: 12:32 pm

A flyer in defense of Kshama Sawant in the wake of a recall campaign. (MyNorthwest photo) A "Sawant Solidarity" petitioner in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (MyNorthwest photo) Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (Seattle City Council, Flickr Creative Commons)

After months of delays, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled Thursday to allow a recall petition against Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant to move forward.

Rantz: Sawant withheld supposed threat concerns to get more press

The recall petition was filed last year by Seattleite Ernest Lou, who levied six initial charges against Sawant, ranging from claims that she had helped create the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest in the summer of 2020, to allegations she led a protest to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home, the location of which is protected under state confidentiality laws.

A King County judge dismissed two of those charges last October, leaving four for the state Supreme Court to consider. In addition to the charge regarding the protest at Durkan’s home, the court was left to decide on the following allegations:

In the court’s unanimous decision issued Thursday morning, it ruled that the charges regarding city hall, misused resources for the ballot initiative, and the protest at Durkan’s home are all “legally sufficient to support recall.” It also ruled that the allegation related to Socialist Alternative dictating hiring decisions, and the charge that the protest at Durkan’s amounted to criminal harassment are “legally insufficient.”

Sawant issued a statement responding to the ruling shortly after it was published, calling it “completely unjust,” and criticizing the state’s recall laws.

“The recall law in Washington state is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true,” she said. “In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system.”

According to SCC Insight’s Kevin Schofield, the court’s ruling on Thursday also requires the lower trial court that first ruled on the recall to “re-issue its approved ballot synopsis to remove the one charge disallowed by the court.”

After that, Lou will have 180 days to collect just over 10,700 certified paper signatures from registered voters in District 3, a number that would constitute 25% of total votes cast in the last election for the district’s council seat.

Provided enough signatures are gathered, a simple “yes” or “no” recall vote would have to take place as part of a regularly scheduled election. Lou’s group tells KING 5’s Chris Daniels it intends to target November of this year, citing the short timeline they’d need to meet in order to get on the August ballot.

Sawant calls for investigation after threats from city email account

Over the last three months, money has flowed in to both the “Kshama Sawant Solidarity Campaign” and the coalition leading the recall effort. As of March 30, the recall campaign has garnered nearly $295,000 in contributions, while Sawant Solidarity has collected over $426,000, with petitioners in support of the councilmember having set up stations on corners across the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

You can read the court’s full ruling below:

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Washington Supreme Court allows Kshama Sawant recall petition to move forward