An effort to recall Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant led Tuesday night’s vote count with around 53% support for his impeachment, as voters in his district took part in a landmark election to decide whether the outspoken socialist politician had to be ousted or retained.
Additional votes will be counted in the coming days.
The stand-alone election is the first-ever reminder by a council member to reach a poll in Seattle and came just over a month after a general election that saw city voters elect a new mayor, a city ââattorney and two extraordinary council members.
Henry Bridger II, campaign manager for the Recall Sawant campaign, called Tuesday night’s results “strong and promising” in a telephone interview from the campaign headquarters on Capitol Hill.
âI think we did a great job,â said Bridger. âPeople were really tired of not being listened to by Sawant. I think they stepped in and told her that she finally has to listen to us.
At the Capitol Hill concert hall, adorned with red signs with pro-Sawant messages, the board member told supporters to wait and see more votes tallied.
âIn each of our elections there has been a dramatic turnaround after election night in our leadership,â Sawant said. “While we can’t be sure of the end result, if past trends hold true, it looks like the workers may have won in this fight.”
She added: âWin ââor lose, we must not forget that the ruling class continues to pursue us because we have shown how to win for the working class. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly with unprecedented victories. “
Tuesday’s tally represented about 41% of the roughly 77,579 registered voters in District 3. Ahead of the recall election, King County Elections suggested the turnout could reach 50%, calling it a perhaps conservative estimate. It is not yet clear where the participation will actually end. With a turnout of 50%, Sawant is expected to win around 65% of the remaining votes.
In Tuesday’s election, voters in District 3 were asked a question: “Should Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant be recalled from office?” “
The election crowns a year-plus campaign by recall supporters to remove Sawant.
Sawant, who grew up in India and is a former software engineer and professor of economics, was first elected to the board in 2013, when she defeated outgoing board member Richard Conlin. Then 41-year-old activist, Sawant had made a name for herself as an Occupy Seattle protester, advocating rent control and a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
Sawant was re-elected in 2015 when the city’s seven districts were formed, and again in 2019 to represent District 3 – including Capitol Hill, the Central District, First Hill, Madison Park, Little Saigon, Madrona and Mount Baker .
Since her election she has been seen by many as a polarizing factor on the board.
This character and some of his actions during the summer of 2020 helped fuel the recall effort.
The charges, brought by a group of voters and others, and approved by the state’s Supreme Court, allege three counts of “misconduct, embezzlement and violation of the oath of office”, resulting from three incidents in 2020.
First, in a charge that Sawant does not deny, but says it was unintentional and too minor to warrant a recall, she is accused of using more than $ 1,700 in municipal resources to support a voting initiative. of Tax Amazon and for acting in violation of the public disclosure requirements relating to these expenses. In May, she settled with the Seattle Elections and Ethics Commission for double the amount she had spent.
The second charge accuses him of disobeying state COVID-19 orders by unlocking city hall to hundreds of protesters on one occasion at the height of racial justice protests in Seattle in June 2020. Sawant does not not deny the opening of town hall, but says the action did not violate any law and was essential for local participants of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The third charge accuses Sawant of leading a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home, although Durkan’s address is protected by a state confidentiality program due to his past work as a federal prosecutor.
Sawant admits that she participated in the march, but denies organizing the event and, in a recent interview, claims that she did not know where the march was heading. The march was advertised on Facebook and in an email ad ahead of the event as the âMayor’s Mansion Marchâ organized by the Democratic Socialists of America.
In power, Sawant was the most left-wing and unabashedly militant member of the council. Her approach as a surrogate for community activists and adversary of all business matters at times brought her into conflict with her eight more moderate colleagues, but at times persuaded board members to adopt progressive policies. .
Her platform and demeanor have remained consistent throughout her eight years in office, as she voted ‘no’ on her eighth consecutive budget, as the only dissenting member of the board, and continued to advocate for tenants. ‘a First Hill apartment complex in the month leading up to its impending recall.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote count, speakers at the Sawant rally – including Seattle Black Panthers founding member Aaron Dixon and Democratic Socialists of America National Committee member Matt Miller – urged supporters urged to continue. the board member’s fight, regardless of the outcome of the recall the election.
The remaining votes in the recall will be counted and shared around 4 p.m. each following day through Friday, according to King County Elections Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson.
If Sawant is recalled, she will be removed from her post once the results are certified on December 17th. The remaining eight council members would have 20 days to nominate a replacement who would represent the district until a special election in November 2022.
Whoever wins the special election will serve for the duration of Sawant’s tenure, ending in 2023. Sawant would be eligible to run in the special or future election.
Estimating turnout is difficult because the election has little historical precedent, Hodson says, as it is the first reminder from a Seattle council member to go on the ballot.
âStand-alone recalls are really rare, so there isn’t a whole lot of history to be made,â Hodson said.
Sawant and his supporters criticized the election schedule – between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and just over a month after the city’s general election – arguing that it would embarrass some voters or deter them from participating.
King County Chief Electoral Officer Julie Wise said in a statement in June that the timing had been carefully chosen.
âA number of factors influenced our decision to set the recall elections for December 7th. With the November general and February special elections being out of the realm of possibilities, we looked at dates that would reduce election overlap for our constituents and sought to avoid the busy December recess period as much as possible, âwrote Wise.
Reporter Daniel Beekman and Data reporter Manuel Villa contributed to this report.