Seattle socialist Kshama Sawant has narrowly avoided being ousted from her seat on the city council, following a widely watched recall election.
By Friday afternoon, わずか 41,000 ballots had been counted, with the no recall vote leading by 310. Though a recount request is possible, it is considered unlikely.
“For us to have overcome that in this spectacular manner really speaks to not only the organizational strength of our campaign, of Socialist Alternative, of working people in general, but also the political ideas on which this victory has been based,” Sawant told the Guardian on Friday.
The recall result for Sawant – who became the first socialist on the Seattle council in nearly a century after she beat out a Democrat and 16-year incumbent in 2013 – was viewed as a win for progressives and a rebuff of big business.
But with a significant subsection of residents in Sawant’s district voting to remove her, the result also clarified just how much of a polarizing figure she has remained.
The recall effort was based on claims that she opened city hall to demonstrators during a protest, disregarding Covid-19 restrictions, used city resources for a “Tax Amazon” effort, and led a march to Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan’s home despite the address being protected under state confidentiality laws.
The Kshama Solidarity Campaign has pushed back on the charges, and Sawant said the recall was rather an “attempt to have a do-over of the election result in 2019 which big business did not like”.
彼女は付け加えた: “In reality if the rightwing, if big business was allowed to win in this recall [その後] they would only be emboldened to go after progressive movements both in Seattle and nationally.”
The election drew widespread national attention and both sides have seen substantial financial contributions, some coming from states away.
Two groups in support of the recall, Recall Sawant and A Better Seattle, raised just over $1m combined, while the Kshama Solidarity Campaign has raised almost $1m, according to the Seattle ethics and elections commission.
Henry Bridger II, campaign manager and chairman of Recall Sawant, said in statement Friday: “While this election will not end with removing councilmember Sawant from office, her narrow escape sends a clear message: Seattle voters are yearning for constructive representation and will not tolerate slash-and-burn politicians who shirk accountability and divide the city. Sawant is supposed to represent all of us, not just those who agree with her, and we hope that this election leads her to see that.”
On election night, 7 12月, the recall had the lead, but as more votes were counted in the following days (Washington state runs a vote-by-mail system that means final results may take days to appear), the no recall side soon took a slight lead.
Eva Metz, 29, who lives in Sawant’s district and works as a nursing assistant and restaurant host, said she was motivated to volunteer in support of the councilmember because of her work for renters’ rights. She said she spent virtually the entire weekend before the vote going door-to-door and speaking to voters from a table on the street.
“The goal was to make it so that you couldn’t really walk around District 3 and miss the campaign," 彼女は言いました. "それで, I think we did that job pretty well.”
Sawant, now in her third term, has helped to increase Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour – a first for a major US city – and helped to secure more rights for renters, while pushing for the city’s police budget to be slashed.
But after seven years in office, some of her constituents have grown increasingly tired of what they view as more talk than actual results.
“It’s like she represents District 3, but we don’t see her, we don’t hear from her,” said Victoria Beach, 62, chair of the Seattle police department’s African American Community Advisory Council. “She has not done anything. I just don’t like the way she handles her job.”
The recall effort was initiated by a Seattle resident within a year after Sawant clinched her latest re-election victory, に 2019, overtaking an opponent with unprecedented financial support from Amazon.