Landlords spearhead Seattle Sawant recall

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, one of the best known socialist elected officials in the United States, faces a recall election spearheaded by a handful of rich people: landlords, developers and other capitalists and racists. Because it’s Seattle, those hostile to progressive, pro-worker, anti-racist city politics cannot come out and say that they don’t like Sawant because she fights tirelessly to protect and expand the rights of the exploited and oppressed people of Seattle. Instead, they had to dig deep to find Sawant’s petty “crimes” for which they hope they can get a majority of voters to vote “yes” in a special recall election. Sawant is a member of Socialist Alternative and Democratic Socialists of America.

The charges against Sawant, which were certified in order to allow a recall vote, truly are petty. The recall organizers started with six complaints, of which King County Superior Judge Jim Rogers certified four. And finally the state Supreme Court said the recall could proceed with three. It is now up to the voters to decide if these charges warrant her being recalled. 

So, what is Sawant accused of? 

“Used City resources to support a ballot initiative and failed to comply with the public disclosure requirements related to such support.”

“In May 2021, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission dinged Sawant for several ethics violations related to the Tax Amazon initiative that never materialized. She allegedly photocopied posters for the measure that included the official seal of Seattle, posted links to websites that support her tax on her city council website, and spent at least $1,758.87 in city funds to promote the campaign.

“To settle the issue, Sawant agreed to pay $3,515.74, which was double the amount of city funds she spent. In a statement she said she thought she was allowed to use her office’s resources prior to the filing of the initiative: ‘Certainly, I did not willfully disregard any ethics rules.’”

The Stranger

“Disregarded state orders related to COVID-19 by admitting hundreds of people into City Hall on June 9, 2020 when it was closed to the public.” 

Sawant led Black Lives Matter protesters into City Hall, which was empty,  for just over an hour in June of 2020.  As was the norm at protests in Seattle during the uprising, all marchers were masked, hand sanitizer was widely available, marchers maintained social distance and protesters were urged to stay home if they did not feel well. COVID data for King County during the uprising, when thousands of people marched daily in Seattle, showed no uptick in cases related to protest marches. 

“Led a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s private residence, the location of which Councilmember Sawant knew was protected under state confidentiality laws.”

The June 28, 2020 protest march in question was organized by the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, of which Sawant was not a member at that time. While Sawant spoke at the rally, and participated in the march, she was in no way the “leader” of the event. 

Why is Durkan’s residence protected under confidentiality laws? Because she is a former U.S. Attorney. However, it is not impossible to figure out where she lives, and it is not unusual in Seattle for protesters to march to the homes of elected officials as a means of holding them accountable. Durkan, under fire for police brutality being directed against people protesting police brutality, went on the attack against Sawant, accusing the councilmember of endangering the mayor’s wife and children. Of course she had little to say about a child being peppersprayed in the face by a Seattle cop a month earlier, or about the brutal killing of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, whose 2017 killing was being commemorated that day. 

Special election manipulation

The recall backers have manipulated the election system to force the recall vote to a “special” election. Special election turnouts are typically low and skew conservative. Seattle just completed a regular election and it would appear the recall campaign had the requisite number of signatures in time to qualify for the regular ballot. However, the recall organizers delayed submitting the signatures until later, forcing the county to foot the bill for a special election and increasing the likelihood of a more conservative voter turnout. 

Why do the real estate forces of Seattle hate Sawant so much?

She has spearheaded a variety of reform victories that benefit tenants: a ban on school-year evictions, a first-in-the-nation winter eviction ban and free legal representation for low-income residents facing eviction. Additionally, landlords will soon be required to give six months notice for all rent increases and provide relocation assistance to low-income tenants who leave after a rent increase of 10% or greater starting in July. 

On December 7, progressive and revolutionary people in Seattle’s District 3 should vote “no” on the special recall election.

Featured image: Seattle City Council. CC-BY-2.0

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