An attempt to recall Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is passing in early results.
As of press time, the recall is succeeding by a 53.1% to 46.9% margin.
Kshama Sawant, 48, an Indian immigrant and an economics professor, is the longest-tenured council member. She has had an outsized influence on the tone and direction of Seattle politics since launching her political career under the banner of the Socialist Alternative party in 2012, when she ran unsuccessfully for state representative.
She was elected to City Council the following year, and her threat to run a voter initiative drive for an immediate $15 minimum wage has been credited with pressuring business leaders and then-Mayor Ed Murray to reach a deal raising the wage to $15 over a few years. Seattle was the first major city in the U.S. to adopt such a measure.
But critics say she offers more rhetoric than substance, and that her brash antics are incompatible with good governance.
Seattle and other cities are banned by state law from adopting rent control, for example. And last month, a federal appeals court ruled that two Seattle police officers could sue Sawant for defamation, after she claimed a fatal shooting they were involved in was “a blatant murder.”
The recall question on the ballot cites three charges—a minor campaign finance violation that Sawant acknowledged and for which she paid a fine; her alleged leadership of a protest march to the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan, even though Durkan’s address was protected by a state confidentiality law due to her prior work as a federal prosecutor; and her decision to let a crowd of protesters into City Hall while it was closed due to the pandemic.
Sawant denies having led the march to Durkan’s house, though she did participate in it.
She has defended her decision to let Black Lives Matter demonstrators into City Hall in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. She said the protesters were inside for only an hour and that it was important for them to be seen in the halls of power.
The most recent ballot turn-in statistics from King County Elections (KCE) indicate roughly 41% voter turnout for the recall. That said, KCE estimates that the final turnout will likely end up being closer to 50%. To overcome, Sawant will need to win around two-thirds of the remaining ballots.