Social Democrat Kshama Sawant threatens a recall in Seattle

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SEATTLE (AP) – A controversial Seattle city council member – fiery socialist Kshama Sawant – faces recall Tuesday, a month after voters voted moderate candidates over progressives in the general election.

The recall is seen as yet another test of whether the left wing is on the retreat in one of the most liberal US cities. Business-friendly candidates won a council seat and the office of mayor in November.

Sawant, 48, an Indian immigrant and economics professor, is the longest serving councilor.

She has had an oversized influence on the tone and direction of Seattle politics since she began her political career under the banner of the Socialist Alternative Party in 2012 when she unsuccessfully ran for state representation.

Sawant was elected to the city council the following year, and her threat to launch a voter initiative for an immediate $ 15 minimum wage was attributed to pressuring business leaders and then-Mayor Ed Murray to reach an agreement that raises the wage to $ 15 over a year a couple of years. Seattle was the first major city in the United States to adopt such a measure.

However, critics have said that it offers more rhetoric than substance and that its brazen antics are incompatible with good governance.

Henry Bridger II leads efforts to recall Sawant.

“She literally beats up people who disagree with her,” said Bridger. “If you don’t keep up with their ideology, you will become the enemy. You are referred to as the Right Republican. You are called a racist. You are bullied and pushed around. “

At stake are the city’s handling of homelessness, police reforms, taxes and other pressing issues.

Sawant is pushing for rent controls, cutting police budgets and raising taxes for high earners like Amazon to pay for affordable housing, schools and community services.

But Seattle and other cities are prevented by state law from introducing rental price caps. And last month a federal appeals court ruled that two Seattle police officers can sue Sawant for defamation after she alleged that a fatal shootout they were involved in was “an apparent murder.”

The recall question on the ballot cites a minor campaign finance violation that Sawant admitted and fined for, and her alleged conduct of a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home, despite Durkan’s address being protected by a state secrecy law from her previous one Activity as federal prosecutor. The recall question also cites their decision to let a crowd of protesters into the town hall while it was closed due to the pandemic.

Bridger insisted that his motivation for carrying out the recall was to hold Sawant accountable and that it had nothing to do with her policies.

But for Sawant’s supporters, the charges are an excuse for efforts by large corporations, developers, and commercial real estate prospects to do what they failed to get in 2019 – when Amazon made a late million dollar push to defeat them and other progressive candidates after backfired. Sawant was re-elected with around 4 percentage points.

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

She has defended her decision to allow Black Lives Matter protesters to enter City Hall following the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd. She said the protesters had only been there an hour and it was important that they be seen in the Halls of Power.

Bryan Koulouris, spokesman for the Kshama solidarity campaign, described the attempt to recall Sawant as part of a national backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement.

“From the nature of the indictment and from the time these elections take place, it is starting to scratch the surface of why this is a rightful recall,” said Koulouris.

The two groups supporting the recall – Recall Sawant and A Better Seattle – have collectively raised nearly $ 1 million, as has Kshama Solidarity.

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