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‘It’s been a really nasty fight’: Seattle District 3 voters on recall of Councilmember Kshama Sawant

A recall vote that ends Tuesday asks whether Sawant should be removed from office for violating her oath of office on three different occasions.

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, voters in Seattle’s District 3 will decide on an effort to recall city Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

Those looking to recall the longest-tenured Seattle council member say Sawant violated her oath of office three times.

First, Sawant was formally accused in May of misusing city funds for a "Tax Amazon" initiative, to which she later admitted wrongdoing. In June, she was accused of violating COVID-19 policies by unlocking doors to City Hall for an after-hours protest.

Sawant is also accused of using her official position to lead a protest march to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's home. Durkan's address was previously hidden by state statute, given her prior career as a U.S. attorney. The mayor's home was vandalized with graffiti, and, in an interview with KING 5, Durkan said her family continues to be harassed and threatened.

Henry Bridger II started the recall campaign against Sawant over a year ago but said he used to support her.

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“When you cross that line of confidentiality and endangering someone, literally endangering the mayor’s life, let alone the people in City Hall when she took them into City Hall,” said Bridger. “There’s an issue, a huge issue. You just can’t do that.”

Bridger has lived in District 3 most of his life and said Sawant has caused a divide in the district like he’s never seen before. He said Sawant’s march with protestors to the mayor’s home was the final straw for him and why he decided to commit to a recall campaign.

“She has a voice; she has a powerful voice in City Hall,” said Bridger. “She could have told people, don’t go to the mayor’s home, don’t go to City Hall, but she didn’t. She showed up and encouraged it.”

KING 5 reached out to Sawant for an interview but did not get a response.

Sawant’s team released the following statement in response to the recall election:

“Vote ‘NO' on the right-wing recall. The charges against Kshama Sawant are dishonest, and the courts haven’t found her guilty of anything.

“Kshama, an immigrant woman of color, is being attacked for participating in peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. This recall is part of the racist right-wing backlash attempting to criminalize protest nationally.

“Big business and the right wing want to remove Kshama because she’s such an effective fighter for working people. Rather than appeasing the establishment, Kshama has used her 8 years in office to win historic victories like the $15 minimum wage and Amazon Tax to fund housing. Rather than taking home the $140,000 Councilmembers pay themselves, Kshama lives on an average worker's wage and donates the majority of her salary to social justice movements.

“The recall is bankrolled by the corporate elite and 500+ Republicans, including Trump’s biggest Washington donor, George Petrie. Corporate landlords back it because they want to stop Kshama’s fight for rent control.

“Kshama didn’t lead the march on Mayor Durkan’s house, and it’s no crime to stand with Black Lives Matter as Kshama did at the peaceful City Hall rally. Kshama didn’t break the law, but like civil rights leaders and socialists before her, she’s always prepared to put herself on the line for working people.

“Ultimately this recall will be decided by you: will you vote ‘NO’ and stand with Kshama Sawant, one of the nation's most progressive elected representatives, OR will you side with big business and the right wing?”

Bridger told KING 5 Sawant’s defense has been name-calling and bullying him and his team.

“This has not been a friendly firefight; it’s been a really nasty fight one way,” said Bridger. “We’ve just held our head high. We’ve just kept going. Anything you say or do that is not in lockstep with her, you’re a racist right-winger; you are a billionaire. I am hardly any of that, let alone my entire team. None of us are that way. It’s just rhetoric that she hopes sticks.”

Bridger added his efforts are focused on getting someone into office that represents the beliefs of a larger portion of District 3.

“Hopefully, recalling her and succeeding in that and getting someone else that would be able to sit at the table and work with everyone at the table instead of trying to call them names alienate them, fight them. That’s all that it’s been is nothing but just negative, negative, negative,” said Bridger.

According to King County, nearly 39% of ballots had been returned in the recall election by Tuesday morning. Organizers said that’s a big turnout so far for an election like this, in such an off time of the year with the general election happening just one month ago.