Sawant, recall manager spar over charges laid out by campaign in Wednesday debate
A recall vote for Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is set for Dec. 7, 2021, with Sawant and the recall campaign’s manager Henry Bridger squaring off in a virtual debate this week to get their respective messages out to District 3 residents.
The debate — aired as part of Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out program on YouTube — kicked off with Sawant addressing the three charges the recall levies against her. Those charges are:
- That Sawant violated COVID-19 protocols by admitting protesters into City Hall during a June demonstration
- That Sawant used her position as a city councilmember to lead a protest to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home, the location of which is confidential due to Durkan’s time as a U.S. Attorney
- That Sawant misused council resources to promote her Tax Amazon ballot initiative
The eight-year councilmember addressed those charges during Wednesday’s debate. Regarding the rally inside City Hall, she contended that it was a peaceful gathering.
“I’m not denying that I helped organize the rally at City Hall,” she noted. “What I’m rejecting is that this was in any way a problem or a riot — it was a peaceful one-hour rally, and it was COVID safe with people handing out hand sanitizer and masks.”
As for the protest at Mayor Durkan’s home, Sawant argued that she “did not organize or lead that march,” and that the route and location of the rally was decided by “families of victims of police violence” who led the march itself.
“They decided the march route, they decided the rally location, they invited me to be one of the speakers — I did not know and I still do not know Mayor Durkan’s address,” she said.
The allegation regarding her use of council resources for her Tax Amazon initiative was based on “a minor SEEC complaint for which I have already paid a fine,” she said.
Taking issue with Sawant’s recounting of events, Bridger argued that Sawant should have exercised more control over the protests at the mayor’s home and City Hall.
“You were there — you could have stopped them from going there, and you showed up,” he said. “You have the power to tell your people to not go there; you have the power to tell your people to not go into City Hall.”
Speaking to the larger reason behind the recall effort, Bridger alleged that it was less about politics and more about how “the people in District 3 are tired of (Sawant) breaking the law.”
“You are supposed to uphold the law, and you are not doing that,” he told her.
One of the more prominent narratives throughout the recall saga has revolved around the signature-gathering process. While Sawant has frequently claimed that the recall campaign dragged its feet to target a lower-turnout December special election, Bridger claimed that the process was slowed by Sawant’s supporters.
“Sawant and her team decided to co-opt the campaign by gathering signatures to force us to go into the November election,” he described.
“We wanted to go into the November election,” Bridger added, claiming that “most” of the signatures collected by Sawant’s supporters were not valid. “We were trying to get there, but we had thousands more [signatures] to validate, and when she got her people to turn in 3,200 more, that put our small staff under great pressure.”
“Let me make it clear: I do not accept at all this nonsense, this lie that most of the signatures we collected were invalid,” Sawant fired back, claiming that a third party had confirmed that over 70% of the signatures collected by her supporters were found to be valid.
Sawant further claimed that the recall campaign was engaged in a “classic right-wing voter suppression tactic” by not pushing harder to make the November general election ballot.
“Having an election between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they’re hoping most people are tuned out,” she said.
“This is not voter suppression,” Bridger answered. “We have a mail-in ballot system that comes with stamps — all they have to do is open their mailbox, fill in their ‘yes’ vote, and put it back in the mail.”
You can watch the full debate on Seattle Channel at this link, or stream it below.