The Washington State Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday that a recall effort against Marxist Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant can proceed. Recall organizers will now have 180 days to collect over 10,000 signatures from residents of Sawant’s Council District 3. If they are successful, a recall election could be held, in August during primary season or during the general election in November.
In Washington state a judge has to sign off on a petitioner’s charges for a recall before it can proceed. Sawant’s team appealed the original ruling allowing the recall to proceed. can be recalled after an involved process that begins with a recall filing submitted to the county's elections office.
The Washington state Constitution says that an elected official can be recalled if they have “committed some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office.”
Sawant’s team immediately slammed the decision, calling the effort a "billionaire-backed, right-wing recall campaign."
However, those involved in the effort dispute Sawant’s labelling of the effort. The recall, submitted by Ernest Lou, lost his job at the Three Dollar Bill Cinema, a nonprofit that produces the annual Seattle Queer Film Festival and the Translations Film Festival after he filed the complaint. Lou lives in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, site of the infamous autonomous zone last summer in Sawant’s district.
At a press conference Thursday, Henry Bridger II, campaign manager and chairman of the Recall Sawant committee, described himself as a liberal Democrat. "I’m unemployed, I live in a studio apartment here on Capitol Hill. It’s not run by any right-wing anything."
Bridger added, "If you’re one little inch off-step, you’re right wing and you’re against her. It’s time that she get fired and the people can do that, it’s constitutional."
"To have it be unanimous, speaks huge volumes, huge volumes," said Bridger. "She works for us, she’s our employee we’re her boss and it’s time to fire her."
A Superior Court judge ruled that four of the six original complaints cited in the recall petition against Sawant could be considered malfeasance.
The first being that Sawant misused city resources in promoting the 'Tax Amazon' initiative. According to the ruling, "As a politician, she is free to sponsor events using her office and to provide food to constituents. But, by providing picket signs and phone banking for the initiative, her conduct crossed into the territory of promoting a ballot proposition because these are explicit actions taken in support of the ballot proposition."
Secondly that the council member violated city and state laws by misusing city resources and her official authority when she opened the doors to Seattle City Hall in June to hundreds of activists, including many from the autonomous zone who occupied the building.
Justice Barbara Madsen stated that Sawant "arguably obstructed city business and placed people at risk" by opening City Hall and that "Councilmember Sawant knew the council had closed city hall to the public in response to the governor’s Stay Home – Stay Healthy order as she voted to permit the council itself to meet remotely."
Sawant also led and spoke at a march of activists including many from the autonomous zone to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s house which compromised the mayor's safety. Durkan's home address is not public because of her previous position as a federal prosecutor. Activists vandalized the home and following the event, Durkan ordered the autonomous zone dismantled.
The court said in their ruling that "it is no coincidence that the protesters found themselves in front of Mayor Durkan’s house."
The court did not agree that Sawant delegating hiring and firing decisions of her office staff to her outside political groups including her radical group the Socialist Alternative rose to the level of malfeasance.
These complaints had previously been brought to the Seattle Ethics Committee. The council appointed group did not see fit to pursue action against Sawant.
Bridger said "People are tired, we’re tired of living in fear and everything that’s been going on. The destruction, the businesses being closed and scared."
Sawant will be holding a press conference Friday morning regarding the ruling and has already began advertising a rally at Cal Anderson Park on Saturday. Cal Anderson was at the center of the autonomous zone and has been a regular location for BLM and Antifa riot and protest activity since the zone was dismantled.
Some radical activists believe that Sawant has repeatedly tried to use their causes to further her own agenda. During the City Hall occupation, Sawant was booed when she began addressing the occupiers regarding her tax Amazon initiative, rather than discussing racial justice. Picking Cal Anderson as the site for her rally had many assuming that Sawant was hoping Antifa and BLM would come to her aid as she tried to position herself as an ally to their causes.
Sawant championed a fifty percent defunding of the Seattle Police and marched with rioters in Seattle against Police officers. Sawant and her staff were active in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) and even set up booth in the center of it to push her Tax Amazon initiative.
The Recall Sawant campaign has raised more over $294,000. Sawant’s recall defense campaign has raised over $309,000 and spent over $182,000 mostly on salaries for known Sawant allies. The City Council agreed to cover the costs of Sawant’s legal defense against the recall last year.
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