Far-left Councilmember Kshama Sawant retains seat after recall attempt

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Voters in Seattle have retained socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, the controversial lawmaker and long-time foe of hometown tech giant Amazon.

Sawant had faced a recall effort. King County Elections on Friday officially certified the Dec. 7 recall election, showing Sawant narrowly prevailing with 50.4% voting “no” on the recall question and 49.6% people casting “yes” ballots.

Sawant, a 48-year-old economics professor, is the longest-tenured council member in Seattle.

In this June 12, 2018, file photo, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks at City Hall in Seattle. Seven of the nine Seattle City Council seats are up for grabs in next month’s election, where retail giant Amazon has made unprecedented donations totaling $1.5 million to a political action committee that’s supporting a slate of candidates perceived to be friendlier to business. Among the company’s top targets is Sawant, a fierce critic of Amazon, who is running against Egan Orion in the District 3 race. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

By surviving the recall she gave a boost to the beleaguered left wing in liberal Seattle, which was bruised in last month’s general election when business-friendly candidates won the mayor’s office and a council seat.

Sawant has had an outsized influence on the tone and direction of Seattle politics since she launched her political career under the banner of the Socialist Alternative party in 2012, when she ran unsuccessfully for state representative.

Sawant was elected to the 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.

Seattle city Councilmember Kshama Sawant listens to speakers during a rally for women’s rights on International Women’s Day, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at Westlake Park.  
(GENNA MARTIN/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

But critics have said she offers more rhetoric than substance and that her brash antics are incompatible with good governance.

Sawant has been pushing for rent control, cutting police funding and raising taxes on high earners such as Amazon to pay for affordable housing, schools and community services.

The recall question on the ballot had cited a minor campaign finance violation that Sawant acknowledged and for which she paid a fine and 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. 

The recall question also cites her decision to let a crowd of protesters into City Hall while it was closed due to the pandemic.

Sawant denied having led the march to Durkan’s house, though she did participate in it.

And she has defended her decision to let Black Lives Matter demonstrators inside City Hall following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police.

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