Bummer, Jeff

Stephen Saroff  o o  The Bear who Swims      
oo oo

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, just over 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.


She added: “In reality if the rightwing, if big business was allowed to win in this recall [then] 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.


On election night, 7 December, 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,” she said. “So, 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.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store