Seattle socialist politician faces close race in recall campaign

SEATTLE (AP) – Preliminary results on Tuesday showed Seattle voters narrowly supported the recall of Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant, a high roller who pushed the city to adopt a $ 15 minimum wage, a rages against hometown tech giant Amazon for its business practices and has angry many with it aggressive political tactics.

But the election is conducted by mail-in ballot, so the final results may not be known for several days as more ballots are counted. And the Seattle election tally is known to swing wildly until the final results are released.

Sawant represents the city council district considered to be the most liberal in Seattle and includes the neighborhoods east of downtown.

If Sawant is recalled, the other eight board members will appoint a replacement until a special election next November.

Sawant, 48, an Indian immigrant and economics professor, is Seattle’s longest-serving board member.

If she survives the recall, it would boost the city’s besieged left wing, which was battered in the general election last month, when pro-business candidates won the mayor’s office and a council seat.

In the first tally released by officials Tuesday night, 53% voted to recall Sawant. But she came from behind in previous elections to win despite larger initial vote deficits.

Sawant has had a disproportionate influence on the tone and direction of Seattle politics ever since she launched her political career under the Socialist Alternative Party banner in 2012, when she unsuccessfully ran as a representative of the ‘State.

She was elected to city council the following year, and her threat to launch an election initiative for an immediate minimum wage of $ 15 was credited with putting pressure on business leaders and then-mayor Ed Murray , to reach an agreement raising the salary to $ 15 over several years. Seattle was the first major city in the United States to adopt such a measure.

But critics said she offered more rhetoric than substance, and her brash antics were incompatible with good governance.

Sawant lobbied for rent controls, reduced police funding and increased taxes for companies like Amazon to pay for affordable housing, schools and community services.

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

The recall question on the ballot cited a minor campaign finance violation that Sawant admitted to paying a fine and her alleged leading a protest march at the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan, even though the Durkan’s address was protected by state confidentiality law due to his previous work as a federal prosecutor. The recall question also cites his decision to let a crowd of protesters enter Town Hall when it was closed due to the pandemic.

Sawant denies leading the march to Durkan’s house, although she did participate.

She defended her decision to leave Black Lives Matter protesters inside City Hall after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. She said the protesters had only been there for an hour and it was important for them to be seen in the corridors of power.

For Sawant supporters, the accusations were a pretext for an effort by big companies, developers and commercial real estate interests to accomplish what they failed to do in 2019 – when a late million push Amazon dollars to defeat her and other progressive contenders backfired. Sawant was re-elected by around 4 percentage points.

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