Pass the popcorn: WA supreme court unanimously OK's recall campaign against Seattle's Socialist council member

Remember Kshama Sawant? The Socialist politician first made waves eight years ago, just days after her election to Seattle’s city council, by urging Boeing workers to seize the company’s factories for themselves. Sawant later quarterbacked the head-tax proposal that prompted Amazon to leave the city, which the city council later reversed. Sawant spearheaded an effort to cut the police chief’s pay after Chief Carmen Best criticized Sawant’s effort to defund the police department, causing Best to resign in protest. Sawant also led a protest at Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home in favor of defunding the police and protecting the socialists’ seizure of several city blocks in the CHAZ/CHOP, despite Durkan’s home address being protected by a privacy statute.

For those and other reasons, opponents launched a recall effort against Sawant, which she sued to enjoin. Last night, a unanimous 9-0 ruling from the state supreme court approved the recall petition, holding that three of the four allegations listed are factually accurate and good cause for the recall:

The Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the recall campaign against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant to move forward, paving the way for signature-gathering and, potentially, an election this year that could oust Sawant from office.

Recall petitioners now have 180 days to collect more than 10,000 signatures from residents of Sawant’s Council District 3. If they collect the signatures, a recall election — an up-or-down vote on Sawant — would be held, either with the general election in November or by early next year. …

Lou’s recall petition charges Sawant with four distinct offenses: She delegated her office’s employment decisions to her political party; she used city resources to promote a “Tax Amazon” ballot initiative; she let demonstrators into City Hall during a nighttime June protest; and she spoke at a protest in front of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s house (Durkan’s address is protected by a state confidentiality program because of her past work as a federal prosecutor).

The only charge that the court enjoined was the delegation of employment decisions to the Executive Committee of the Socialist Alternative party. In their decision, the court noted that council members have plenary authority to staff their offices, and can consult with anyone whom they see fit to advise them. That might make for a good election argument against Sawant, but it’s not an abuse of power or a dereliction of authority.

Otherwise, it’s now full speed ahead. The report from KING in Seattle notes that Sawant has prepared for the challenge, having raised nearly a half-million dollars already. Most of that comes from outside Seattle, however, which her opponents can certainly point out while collecting signatures. This is no slam dunk, though; the recall has to get 10,000 signatures in Sawant’s District 3, which would would be roughly 22% of all votes cast in the 2019 city election in that district. Sawant only did get past Egan Orion at that time, however, and her stunts over the past year might galvanize those who were already inclined to dislike her.

Either way, though, we can be assured that even a successful recall of Sawant would still produce a progressive replacement. It’s Seattle, after all; the best anyone can hope to see is a somewhat less nihilistic politician take Sawant’s place. Otherwise, passing the popcorn is about all the fun we’ll get.