Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant faces recall vote

Kshama Sawant
Kshama Sawant

Indian-American Socialist leader stands accused of violating her oath of office, misusing city funds

Kshama Sawant, an Indian-American Seattle City Council member since 2014 is facing a rare recall election in the state of Washington on Tuesday with her supporters and opponents canvassing voters.

It took years for the recall effort to make it to voters in District 3 — and the issue has left many in the community divided in Seattle’s Central District, Capitol Hill neighborhood, according to local King5.com.

The first and only member of Socialist Alternative to be elected to public office in America, Sawant stands accused of violating her oath of office with three certified charges from the state Supreme Court.

Charges against her include misusing city funds for a “Tax Amazon” campaign, leading a march to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home and letting hundreds of protesters inside city hall after hours during a pandemic.

Read: Washington offers free COVID-19 tests thanks to Kshama Sawant (March 6, 2020)

“This recall is racist, right wing, and based on lies, the recall claims that I don’t represent everyone in the district, I don’t,” Sawant was quoted as saying during a debate on the subject in November.

“We’re turning out the vote in the biggest way that Seattle’s ever seen,” Kshama Solidarity Campaign Manager Bryan Koulouris told K5.

Sawant and other speakers rallied supporters to remind people to vote at a kickoff event Saturday morning, it said. Those on the other side of the issue were also out talking with potential voters.

“We need to get together and work together,” Henry Bridger, who is running the campaign to Recall Sawant told K5. “I’m not a politician, I’m just a normal guy who wants to get our city back on track.”

Sawant’s supporters believe this is about outside influences trying to sway Seattle politics.

Backing the recall effort, the Seattle Times editorial board asked voters in her council district “to get their ballots in to oust her from office two years ahead of schedule.”

“Since winning her third council election in 2019, Sawant has repeatedly abused her authority with performative chicanery, shrugging at City Hall norms and the needs of a district stretching from Montlake to the Central District to Little Saigon,” it alleged.

“Residents and business owners complain she ignores their pleas for better city services, as described in a Nov. 23 public letter from 70 Black, Asian and Jewish leaders,” the Times said.

A former software engineer, Sawant became an economics instructor in Seattle after immigrating to the United States from India. She ran unsuccessfully for the Washington House of Representatives in 2012 before winning her seat on the Seattle City Council in 2013.

Read: Ballots in recall of Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant are mailed to District 3 voters (November 17, 2021)

Born in a middle-class Tamil Brahmin family in the city of Pune, India, Sawant graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Mumbai in 1994. She received her PhD in economics from North Carolina State University in 2003.

After moving to Seattle, she taught at Seattle University and University of Washington Tacoma and was an adjunct professor at Seattle Central College. She was also a visiting assistant professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

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