FILE — Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant addresses supporters at a "Tax Amazon" rally. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – A local political scientist forecasts District 3 Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will weather the storm that is next week’s special recall election.

“The pendulum has swung back to the center in Seattle, but I think she will survive the recall election because her core supporters will turn out more than her opponents,” John Wilkerson, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington, said in an email to The Center Square.

The Nov. 2 general election saw more moderate, law-and-order focused candidates defeat their more progressive opponents in several key Seattle races, including mayor and city attorney, where law-and-order candidates Bruce Harrell and Ann Davison won, respectively.

“As one indicator of the intensity of that support, she has raised more money than her opponents,” Wilkerson said.

As of Nov. 24 – the day before Thanksgiving – the “Kshama Solidarity Campaign” had raised $913,148 to the “Recall Kshama Sawant” campaign’s $771,595 in an election that has drawn a lot of attention

That Sawant, a self-proclaimed socialist, is the subject of a recall election is not unexpected from Wilkerson’s point of view.

“I haven’t seen any polling and don’t have a crystal ball. I’m not surprised that Sawant is on the ballot,” he said. “She has pursued visible controversial policies (taxing Amazon) and violated norms (if not the law) in her advocacy.”

Sawant was formally accused of misusing city funds for a 2020 “Tax Amazon” campaign, to which she admitted wrongdoing earlier this year in paying a $3,515.74 fine.

She also unlocked Seattle City Hall for protesters during a summer 2020 demonstration against police violence.

Later that summer, the city council member was part of a march to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home. Durkan’s address was hidden by state statute, owing to her prior career as a U.S. attorney.

These three specific allegations are listed on the Dec. 7 recall ballot.

Northwest Progressive Institute Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve didn’t offer a prediction on how the recall election will turn out, but he did note the out-of-the-ordinary nature of what is happening.

“What we do know is that this is an unusual electoral event,” he said in an email. “We rarely see recalls qualify for the ballot in Washington state, and voters are rarely asked to return a ballot right after a November general election in a December special election. Our team is not aware of any credible, independent public polling that could give us usable clues about the recall's prospects.”

While the jury is still out on Sawant’s electoral fate next week, there are some indications she is vulnerable to losing her seat on the council.

Sawant was re-elected in 2019 in a close contest against Egan Orion in which she recovered from an election night deficit of more than 8 percentage points to claim victory by a margin of 52% to 48%.

“The fact that a socialist who has been an unapologetic fighter for ordinary people and who has doggedly used a movement-building approach and shown herself to be extremely effective and successful, that you can win three elections, that should be extremely empowering for our movements,” she said at the time, as reported in The Guardian.

Sawant was first elected to the council in 2013, defeating long-time incumbent Richard Conlin by the narrowest of margins: 51% to 49%.

A change in how most members of the Seattle City Council are elected – by district instead of at-large – via voter-approved Charter Amendment 19 meant Sawant had to run for re-election in 2015. She defeated the Seattle Urban League's president at the time, Pamela Banks, by a more convincing margin of 56% to 44%.

Should Sawant be recalled, Seattle’s city charter mandates the remaining councilmembers appoint an interim District 3 representative within 20 days.

The interim councilmember replacing Sawant would serve in her seat until the next regularly scheduled general election in November 2022. The winner of that election would serve out the remainder of Sawant’s term, which expires in 2023.

Nothing in the law would bar Sawant from running again in the event that she is recalled.

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