Kshama Sawant recall: America’s top socialist lawmaker fights for her political life

America’s highest profile socialist legislator is fighting for her political life after the effort to oust Seattle’s Kshama Sawant took an early lead.

As details of the first batch of results from the recall vote, representing around 41 per cent of the total votes, were released, those supporting the campaign to recall the outspoken city council member led 53-47.

While organisers of the campaign to recall the 48-year-old politician, a member of the Marxist Socialist Alternative, crossed their fingers as they expressed the belief they had done enough to defeat her, Ms Sawant and her supporters insisted they could easily make up the difference.

Reports suggest that in previous elections, her proportion of votes cast has increased as more ballots were counted.

“While we cannot be sure of the final results, if past trends hold, it appears that working people may have prevailed in this fight,” she said at an election night gathering at a bar and restaurant on Capitol Hill.

“In every one of our elections, there has been a dramatic swing after election night in our direction.”

Yet, she told her supporters that even if she was defeated in the recall, “we should not forget the ruling class keeps going after us because we have shown how to win for the working class”.

Henry Bridger II, chairman of the recall campaign, said in an interview at his group’s election night gathering, he felt they were “close” to feeling confident they had done enough.

More results will be counted on Wednesday and reports suggest by Friday at the latest, the city will know its socialist council member will keep her seat.

Asked about claims that the recall was unfair as it was taking place on a night when no other issues were on the ballot, he told The Independent: “We had no choice in that. That was the date we were given by King County. That was not us.”

The election night events for the two campaigns were something of a study in contrast. Ms Sawant’s event’s took place in a noisy bar in the heart of Capitol Hill, where supporters paid for their own drinks and her campaign sold red badges bearing her name.

The party held by the recall campaign that featured free wine and snacks and was held in an airy workspace on the second floor.

Before Ms Sawant spoke, a succession of people took to the stage to praise her work, among them Mick Barry, a socialist member of Ireland’s parliament, from the city of Cork, and Seattle Black Panthers founding member Aaron Dixon.

“In a sane society it would be people like Jeff Bezos getting recalled for having such eye watering wealth while so many people are homeless and without access to mental healthcare, not Kasama Sawant,” said Mr Barry.

A 26-year-old woman, Eithne Leahy, who works for as an immigration rights campaigner, said Ms Sawant was one of the few people fighting for working people and demanding that companies such as Amazon pay their fair share in taxes.

Was she hopeful the campaign to defeat the recall could win?

“I am hopeful,” she said. “People are just fed up with things as they are.”

Ms Sawant, who was first elected in 2012, has been credited with several things, among them making Seattle the first city in the country to adopt a $15 per hour minimum wage. That measure, which passed by a unanimous vote in 2014, was quickly adopted by several other cities.

She also made headlines for her pressure to pass legislation that become known as the “Amazon tax”, and which required the tech giant to pay taxes directed to help the homeless.

During the pandemic, she spearheaded efforts to halt the eviction of people who could not pay their rent.

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Those behind the recall effort say Ms Sawant, who was most recently reelected to the city council in 2019, deserved to lose her position for several reasons – that during the protests for racial justice that swept the nation in the summer of 2020, she improperly opened the buildings of the council chamber to host 1,000 protesters during a Covid lockdown, and led demonstrators to the home of the city’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, where she had called for her impeachment.

She has denied any wrong doing in regard to the first two claims, and rejected leading the march to the mayor’s house. She has, however, admitted misusing official resources for a ballot measure before a city ethics commission.

At the time she said she “did not willfully disregard any ethics rules”.

One of the supporters of the recall, 32-year-old Max Spector who works in cyber security, alleged Ms Sawant’s supporters had shouted at recall volunteers as they tried to gather signatures.

“This is the first time I have been involved in a political campaign,” he said. “You wouldn’t think local politics would get so intense.”

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