After narrowly preventing her dismissal, Kshama Sawant, the Seattle city council member, reinforces the socialist policies and outspoken tactics that make her one of Seattle’s most polarizing politicians.
That month, Sawant became the first member of the Seattle city council to stand up for recall and retained their seat with just 310 votes.
With over 41,000 ballots counted in the December 7th election, representing a turnout of 53.5%, 50.4% of their voters voted to support them. More than 20,000 others voted to call her back.
But in an interview on Friday, Sawant said she wasn’t worried about her voters who oppose her.
“I’m not going to change the way we run our office because that’s not our policy,” said Sawant, whose campaign raised nearly $ 1 million.
“We have won three elections in the past and then won against the recall. Every year you will find that the votes are more or less divided. In our case, it’s very polarized because we’re very clear which side we’re on, ”Sawant said.
In her three terms in office and throughout her history as an activist, Sawant, who describes herself as a Marxist, has prioritized policies that benefit the poor, the working class, and constituents.
In the recall vote, Sawant was accused of misusing city funds to support the Tax Amazon initiative; Disregarding the rules surrounding COVID-19 by letting a crowd of protesters into Seattle City Hall on an evening in June 2020; and for leading a protest march to the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan, although Durkan’s address is protected because of her previous work as a US attorney.
In May, she reached an agreement with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission on the Tax Amazon campaign for $ 3,516. Sawant admitted the charges but said she was unaware that it was a violation. Sawant admits and was photographed and taped opening town hall to activists, but says she did not violate COVID orders in the process. In relation to the Durkan protest, she has denied organizing the event or knowing the march led to the mayor’s house, despite advance advertising on social media for the march.
The organizers of the recall hope that with such a close victory, Sawant will realign their approach to the government and its constituents.
“Although this election will not end with the impeachment of Councilor Sawant, their narrow escape sends a clear message: Seattle voters long for constructive representation and will not tolerate slash-and-burn politicians who shirk responsibility and divide the city” said Recall Sawant chairman Henry Bridger II in a statement Friday after the election was confirmed.
“Sawant is designed to represent all of us, not just those who agree, and we hope this election will lead them to realize that,” said Bridger.
Sawant and many supporters believe, however, that her removal was a disguised referendum on her socialist positions and willingness to fight those who disagree with her.
“This election was not just about a position on the city council of the working class, neither for the working class nor for the ruling class. That has always been our strong example of successful class struggle, ”Sawant said on election night at a party with supporters.
Sawant’s status as one of the few Marxists elected to office in the country – she is a member of the Socialist Alternative – has helped her gain a following not just in and around Seattle, but across the country. She raised over $ 500,000 from more than 4,000 out of town donors during her recall campaign.
Irish politician Mick Barry said during the Sawant election party, “when you realize what is wealth and what power and what is privilege,” it is natural to follow socialists like Sawant.
“And by the way, what a compliment to Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative for calling them back that way,” said Barry.
While Sawant takes pride in her commitment to socialism, others criticize her for marginalizing District 3 residents who do not share her policies.
“She doesn’t represent everyone in this district. But she was chosen to represent everyone in the district, ”Bridger said in a pre-election interview. “I’ve never met such a divisive person in my life.”
Sawant says she enjoys talking to people who disagree and will “win” them over to her side, but will not compromise their political beliefs.
“When voters vote in elections in which we are involved, they choose their own policy,” she said on Friday.
In the second half of her term, which expires in 2023, Sawant will continue to focus on tenant rights, accountability for large corporations, and other important issues for working class voters, including the head of rent control.
To do so, she urged her colleagues on the city council to work with her on progressive policies, despite a shift towards more moderate Democrats in the November election.
“Progressive Democrats have lost ground on the city council,” Sawant said in a victory speech to a crowd of supporters last week. She added: “Many Democrats on the council want to try to pull Seattle politics to the right. We cannot allow them. “
Sawant invited progressive members of the council to join her in their endeavors, but said the ball was with the members who did not support her in the removal.
“If indeed the goal of the liberal democrats” [is] to clearly fight for the working population, i would like to join them. I would meet her today and the next day to develop strategies on how we can go on the offensive for rent control, affordable housing, in order to fight institutional racism in this country, ”she said. “But the choice is yours.”
Sawant said she was not concerned about ostracizing her fellow mayor Bruce Harrell’s council or administration for not being in “making friends” politics.
“They are not my friends. I don’t want to build friendships,” she said. “I have enough friends among the workers. I am there to fight for the working people.”