Socialist Kshama Sawant faces recall vote in Seattle

Dec 5, 2021, 7:42 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2021, 10:01 am
FILE - Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks during a protest against family separation a...

FILE - Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks during a protest against family separation at the border and other immigration-related issues on Aug. 1, 2019, outside ICE headquarters in Seattle. Henry Bridger II, a former supporter of Sawant, is leading an effort to recall her, and ballots are due Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 in Seattle's Third District. The results could further shift power in the Northwest's largest city and deal another setback to leftist activists who saw business-friendly candidates win a council seat and the mayor's office in the November 2021 general election. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — At first, Henry Bridger II supported Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s combative socialist city councilmember. A liberal voter in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in an extremely liberal city, he liked her fresh outlook and support for a $15 minimum wage.

Seven years later, Bridger is leading an effort to recall Sawant. With ballots due Tuesday night in Seattle’s Third District, the results could further shift power in the Northwest’s largest city and deal another setback to leftist activists who saw business-friendly candidates win a council seat and the mayor’s office in last month’s general election.

At stake is how the city approaches homelessness, police reform, taxation and other pressing issues. Sawant has been pushing for rent control, cutting police funding and expanding taxes on high earners such as Amazon to pay for affordable housing, schools and community services.

“She literally blasts people who don’t agree with her,” Bridger said. “If you’re not in lockstep with her ideology, you become the enemy. You’re called a right-wing Republican. You’re called a racist. You’re bullied and pushed around.”

Sawant, 48, an Indian immigrant and an economics professor, is the longest-tenured council member. She has had an outsized influence on the tone and direction of Seattle politics since launching her political career under the banner of the Socialist Alternative party in 2012, when she ran unsuccessfully for state representative.

She was elected to City Council the following year, and her threat to run a voter initiative drive for an immediate $15 minimum wage has been credited with pressuring business leaders and then-Mayor Ed Murray to reach a deal raising the wage to $15 over a few years. Seattle was the first major city in the U.S. to adopt such a measure.

But critics say she offers more rhetoric than substance, and that her brash antics are incompatible with good governance.

Seattle and other cities are banned by state law from adopting rent control, for example. And last month, a federal appeals court ruled that two Seattle police officers could sue Sawant for defamation, after she claimed a fatal shooting they were involved in was “a blatant murder.”

The recall question on the ballot cites three charges: a minor campaign finance violation that Sawant acknowledged and for which she paid a fine; her alleged leadership of a protest march to the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan, even though Durkan’s address was protected by a state confidentiality law due to her prior work as a federal prosecutor; and her decision to let a crowd of protesters into City Hall while it was closed due to the pandemic.

Bridger insisted that his motivation for bringing the recall campaign was to hold Sawant accountable for those transgressions, and that it has nothing to do with her politics.

But to Sawant’s supporters, the charges are merely a pretext for an effort by big business, developer and commercial real-estate interests to accomplish what they failed to do in 2019, when a late, million-dollar push by Amazon to defeat her and other progressive candidates backfired. Sawant was reelected by about 4 percentage points.

Sawant denies having led the march to Durkan’s house, though she did participate in it.

She has defended her decision to let Black Lives Matter demonstrators into City Hall in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. She said the protesters were only inside for an hour and that it was important for them to be seen in the halls of power.

Bryan Koulouris, spokesman for the Kshama Solidarity Campaign, called the attempt to boot Sawant part of a national backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement. Even the timing of the vote is suspicious, he said.

The recall campaign needed to turn in nearly 11,000 signatures by early August to place the question onto last month’s ballot.

Sawant’s supporters hoped that would happen, believing that better turnout for the general election — more young and lower-income voters, especially — would improve Sawant’s chances for remaining in office, as opposed to a special election on some other Tuesday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They went so far as to collect 3,000 signatures for the recall effort to ensure it made the November ballot.

But Bridger didn’t turn in the signatures in time to make the general election, saying the recall campaign simply hadn’t collected enough by the deadline.

“This is a blatant act of voter suppression,” Koulouris said. “From the nature of the charges and from when this election is happening, it begins to scratch the surface of why this is a right-wing recall.”

The two groups supporting the recall — Recall Sawant and A Better Seattle — have raised close to $1 million combined, as has Kshama Solidarity.

Andrew Villeneuve, the founder of Northwest Progressive Institute, suggested that going with protesters to Durkan’s house was the most serious charge. Even if Sawant didn’t lead them there, he said, she as a political leader should have spoken up against it. Villeneuve called it an act of intimidation.

Still, he expected that many voters might look at the charges and conclude they don’t warrant removing Sawant from office.

“When I read the charges, I can think of far worse sins committed by other people in office,” Villeneuve said. “There are people who think her advocacy is useful, and people who think her advocacy is counterproductive. Those who find her advocacy counterproductive seem to be the ones supporting the recall.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks during a visit to Wheat Ridge Poultry and Meats, a lo...
Associated Press

US plans wildfire fight where forests, neighborhoods collide

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Biden administration plans to significantly expand efforts to stave off catastrophic wildfires that have torched areas of the U.S. West by more aggressively thinning forests around areas called “hotspots” where nature and neighborhoods collide. As climate change heats up and dries out the West, administration officials said they have crafted […]
1 day ago
FILE - A demonstrator holds up "GUILTY" signs at the Hennepin County Government Center, Dec. 23, 20...
Associated Press

Do Minnesota cases show it’s getting easier to convict cops?

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — First, it was Mohamed Noor — convicted of murder for shooting an unarmed woman who approached his police SUV. Then it was Derek Chauvin, found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin George Floyd to a Minneapolis street as he gasped for air. Last month, it was Kim Potter, guilty […]
1 day ago
FILE - Attorney General William Barr speaks during a news conference in Washington on Dec. 21, 2020...
Associated Press

Former AG William Barr’s memoir to be published March 8

NEW YORK (AP) — Former Attorney General William P. Barr has a memoir coming out March 8 titled “One Damn Thing After Another,” and billed by his publisher as a “vivid and forthright book” of his time serving two “drastically different” presidents, Donald Trump and George H.W. Bush. “Barr takes readers behind the scenes during […]
1 day ago
School children that were taught by Ashling Murphy holds pictures of their teacher outside St Brigi...
Associated Press

Irish mourn slain 23-year-old teacher who was out jogging

LONDON (AP) — Hundreds of mourners turned out Tuesday in Ireland for the funeral Mass of a 23-year-old elementary school teacher whose slaying has reignited debate about how to tackle violence against women. Police said Tuesday they arrested a man in his 30s on suspicion of murder in the case of Ashling Murphy, a musician […]
1 day ago
Jim Obergefell speaks during the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Ceremony, July 4, 2015, in front of...
Associated Press

Jim Obergefell, face of gay marriage, to run for Ohio House

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Gay rights advocate Jim Obergefell, whose name was atop the U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, announced Tuesday that he’s running for a seat in the Ohio legislature. Obergefell, a Democrat, said he wants Ohio to be a place where people feel they have equal opportunity. He was the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Europe narrows hunt for next astronauts, eyes crewed flights

BERLIN (AP) — The European Space Agency has narrowed down the candidate list for its next generation of astronauts, including dozens who have a physical disability. The agency announced last year that it had received a record number of 22,589 applicants from people hoping to become the continent’s next generation of space travelers. ESA said […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Socialist Kshama Sawant faces recall vote in Seattle