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Kshama Sawant

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks during her second-term inauguration and "Tax Amazon 2020 Kickoff" on January 13, 2020. (Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)

Kshama Sawant v. 'Real Estate Tycoons and Developers' on Final Day of Seattle Recall Vote

"Once again, the wealthy and special interests are making a power grab for Kshama Sawant's seat because she has the guts to stand up for working people," Sen. Bernie Sanders recently said in support of the socialist council member.

Brett Wilkins

As Seattle residents face an 8:00 pm Tuesday deadline to cast their ballots in the recall election of District 3 Council member Kshama Sawant, supporters of the Socialist Alternative lawmaker made their final pitch to the Washington city's voters.

"Instead of spending money on the recall, businesses should focus on supporting economic recovery, our public health, addressing racial inequities, and creating a clean-fueled economy."

"Vote 'no' on the right-wing recall," the Kshama Solidarity Campaign said in a statement, calling accusations by proponents of recalling the third-term council member "dishonest." 

"The courts haven't found her guilty of anything," the campaign continued. "Kshama, an immigrant woman of color, is being attacked for participating in peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. This recall is part of the racist right-wing backlash attempting to criminalize protest nationally. Big Business and the right wing want to remove Kshama because she's such an effective fighter for working people."

The recall ballot accuses Sawant, the longest-tenured Seattle council member, of "misfeasance, malfeasance, and violation of the oath of office." Specifically, it says she "used city resources to support a ballot initiative," ignored state pandemic rules "by admitting hundreds of people into City Hall" when it was closed to the public, and "led a protest march to Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan's private residence."

Sawant's supporters, however, argue that it's her record of fighting for working-class people and against billionaires and Big Business that has made her a target of "a cabal of tech corporations, real estate interests, and business lobbyists."

"Once again, the wealthy and special interests are making a power grab for Kshama Sawant's seat because she has the guts to stand up for working people," U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said last week. "We need to unite together to stop this baseless recall."

Marxist economist Richard D. Wolff said earlier this week that "when the capitalists and their political servants see the appeal of socialist ideas and proposals, they try to destroy socialist leaders."

Accusing Sawant foes of "abusing the recall process to remove politicians who pose a mild threat to the bottom lines of real estate tycoons and developers will likely prevail," Rich Smith, associate editor of The Stranger, wrote Monday that "conservative media and right-wing activists are scraping the bottom of their barrels for more shit to throw at Sawant's campaign."

While the editorial board of The Seattle Times recently accused Sawant of "shrugging at City Hall norms" and "performative chicanery," her supporters point to her key role in making Seattle the first major U.S. city to enact a $15 hourly minimum wage, as well as in helping to lead the successful push for the so-called "Amazon tax" on large corporations and a slew of tenant protections including free legal aid for people facing eviction and the landmark Renters' Bill of Rights.

Goodman Real Estate CEO George Petrie is one of more than 100 financial backers of former President Donald Trump and hundreds of GOP donors to support the recall, as is Columbia Modern Living president Carl Haglund—described by a whistleblower as a "notorious slumlord." In 2016, Sawant successfully led the effort to pass the so-called "Carl Haglund Law" to boost tenant's rights. 

Billionaire real estate developer Martin Selig, known locally as the "ICE landlord," and his apparent heir and daughter, Jordan Selig, are also among the recall's supporters. So is Egan Orion, whose unsuccessful 2019 run to unseat incumbent Sawant received nearly half a million dollars from an Amazon-backed PAC run by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Orion provided the recall campaign with data on 2,500 of his donors and their employers.

Washington state Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-37) said last week that "instead of spending money on the recall, businesses should focus on supporting economic recovery, our public health, addressing racial inequities, and creating a clean-fueled economy that recognizes the dire climate emergency."

Saldaña added that "if Kshama were a man, she'd be treated differently."

Linguist and leftist dissident Noam Chomsky, who turned 93 years old on Tuesday, was an early opponent of the campaign against Sawant, calling it "a tribute to her achievements and the significance of the goals for which she works successfully—a serious threat to those with illegitimate power."


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