As of Sunday night, 36% of voters in Seattle’s District 3 had turned in their ballots in the recall election of City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
In April, the state Supreme Court ruled the recall could move forward on three of four charges it deemed sufficient for the potential removal of an elected official through the recall process, including Sawant’s admitted use of city resources to promote the Amazon Tax, Sawant leading hundreds into a locked City Hall during a June 2020 protest, and for allegedly leading a march to Mayor Durkan’s home – a protected location meant to remain secret due to her former work as a federal prosecutor.
Under state law, the court’s role in the recall process was to decide whether the allegations are specific and serious enough to warrant potential removal from office – specifically whether they represent misfeasance or violation of the oath of office.
“The district is holding this recall to hold a politician accountable for breaking the law,” Recall Sawant Campaign Manager Henry Bridger II said. “It’s clear that those of us that are regular citizens, we are held accountable for our actions and breaking the law — when we do, we have to pay the price.”
“A politician is not above that law, and when they take an oath to hold up the law and hold up the Constitution of the state and the United States,” he continued. “That’s a higher standard that they have to hold, and we are holding her accountable for breaking laws the Supreme Court unanimously ruled on.”
Bridger bills himself as a progressive and former Sawant supporter who says Sawant’s actions just became too extreme.
“These were things that happened back to back in a period of a year or less, and so when they piled up like that, they were a little bit more visible than the other four lawsuits that she’d had against her in the last seven years,” Bridger said.
“But this is now one that because the things she’s done within a very short period of time last year, just compounded and compounded, and that’s what pushed us progressives here in the district to fight for this and hold her accountable,” he added.
Sawant sees things differently, starting with the allegations that she broke the law.
“Well, that’s a blatant lie, because no court has charged me with anything,” she noted in an interview with KIRO Radio. “So how can they say that I’ve broken the law where there are no legal charges against me?”
“We also know that the law in Washington State itself has been written in such a way that it’s a convenient mechanism for all the institutions of the system to go after working class elected representatives, because it does not require that the truth of the charges be presented to the voters,” she said. “It’s merely if it were true, then they would be presumably, according to some judges, recallable charges. So the recall campaign does not have the burden under Washington state law of proving that those charges are true.”
Sawant also accuses the Recall Sawant campaign of attempting to engage in voter suppression by targeting a December special election, rather than the November general election.
“This blatant voter suppression carried out by the recall campaign by deliberately postponing their signature submission to get an unusual election date between Thanksgiving and the December holidays,” she said. “We know that what the statistics show about the turnout of working people, communities of color, renters in unusual elections, and that’s why we are running a very strong campaign on the ground. There are hundreds of volunteers throughout the district, making sure that ordinary people who have a stake in defeating the recall understand that they need to cast this vote.”
Sawant believes the recall is just an extension of the efforts to oust her in the 2019 election.
“We know that this is an attempt by big corporations, corporate landlords, the right wing, to get a chance at a do-over of the election result in 2019 that they did not like,” she explained. “Despite the millions of dollars that they spent, despite the relentless attack ads, and racist and sexist and misogynist smears against me, personally, and against working people who are fighting for an affordable city.”
“Despite all of that, they weren’t able to win in 2019, and District 3 working class voters prevailed. The corporations and the wealthy hated that decision by the voters, and so they are trying this in another way. And that’s why you have a recall, even though voters in District 3 voted me in for a four year term,” she added, while clarifying that her camp’s use of the term “right wing” in describing the recall is not rhetoric, but fact.
“Five-hundred-plus Republican donors have donated to the campaign, 130-plus Trump donors are backing the recall,” she said. “So it’s not surprising that they are completely hostile to everything that we have won so far, and they are very fearful of what we could win in the future.”
Sawant says if the recall is successful, it’s about much more than just her and the policies she supports.
“We’re not going to attain 100% agreement on every policy, but that’s not what this recall is about,” she said. “This recall is an attack on democracy, and if big business and the right wing are able to prevail, and if we let them win this recall, then they will absolutely go after other progressive elected representatives.”
For Bridger, he sees the recall as a way to turn down the political rhetoric.
“I’m doing something that I feel is right for the city and for the district,” he said. “I love the city. I’ve lived here my entire life. I’ve enjoyed the city so much. A lot of people have come to the city because the beauty and the values we have here, and the way we live here. But I want our city back, at least in a way that we can actually work together instead of fight against each other. That’s not what we’re about here. That’s not the values of Seattle. That’s not the values of this district.”
Bridger believes the recall campaign has the edge given the way the money flowing into both sides breaks down, as detailed in the Seattle Times last week.
“When it comes to our money that we’re raising, 80% of the money that we raised comes from within the city and over 40% of that money comes from the district alone. I think she’s got 24% coming from the district,” he said. “So that shows you she doesn’t have the support here. She can’t get the support here.”
As for how he’d like to see this saga end:
“First, I’d like to see it be a landslide election — that would be the shot heard round the world,” Bridger said. “But I’d like to see when we win this that we get someone in council that takes the position and works for everybody in the district and not just for their own interest.”
Sawant had this message for District 3 voters:
“I would say that there has not been a more important election than voting no, against this unjust, right wing, racist, big business backed recall campaign, and that it’s important for all of us, working people, those of us who care about democracy, who cared about upholding the voice of District 3 voters in 2019, that we vote no against the recall,” she said. “Do not allow Trump donors and the right wing and big business to undermine democracy in the way that they are trying to. Let’s defeat this recall.”
District 3 recall ballots must either be postmarked or submitted in a drop box by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7. King County Elections suggests this close to the deadline, it’s best to place your ballot in a drop box.
If Sawant is recalled, she would be removed from office once the election results are officially certified. It would then fall to Seattle City Council to appoint an interim District 3 councilmember to fill her role until an election that would take place in November 2022.