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Stage could be set for unique election in effort to recall Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Organizers for the effort to recall Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant turned in more than 16,000 signatures to King County Elections Wednesday.

SEATTLE — Organizers of a recall of Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant said they have enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, handing in the petitions to King County Elections on Wednesday.

It sets the stage for a rarity in Seattle elections: a single issue, single candidate campaign in one specific section of the city.

The "Recall" campaign is months in the making. It started at the tail end of summer 2020. Sawant was formally accused of misusing city funds for a "Tax Amazon" campaign, to which she later admitted wrongdoing.

The council member also unlocked Seattle City Hall for a protest, and led a 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.

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"It's about holding a politician accountable," said Henry Bridger, the Recall campaign chair, who gleefully stacked up petitions he said holds more than 16,000 signatures from her district, more than the 10,687 needed to put the issue on the ballot.

The State Supreme Court ruled the recall could move forward earlier this year, which started the clock for backers to meet next month's deadline. However, the entire process became muddled after Sawant and her supporters started gathering signatures of their own on very similar-looking petitions in an attempt to get the issue on the November ballot. The council member signed her own petition, which Bridger held up at a press conference.

Sawant said the Recall's slow-walking of the petitions was an act of voter suppression, something Bridger denies.

Local civil rights leader Reverend Harriet Walden stood behind the stack of petitions Wednesday, which dwarfed a bundle collected by Sawant, and said she supported the recall movement.

"We need people encouraged in this town to stand up to the bullies," Walden told KING 5. "[Sawant] has not upheld the oath of office, number one, she didn't care about public safety in her home sector. When the anarchists broke out all the windows in the Lutheran church in the street across the park, she's been silent on everything, [or] the people who got killed in the CHOP."

Sawant, for her part, has gone relatively quiet on social media, and her Kshama Solidarity group did not respond to an email request for comment. However, it tweeted a call for action, and money to fight off the challenge, "BREAKING: the right-wing Recall Campaign has finally turned in the signatures they’ve been sitting on for weeks. Let’s fight this blatant voter suppression!"

So far, Kshama Solidarity has raised close to $625,000, according to city records. The Recall Sawant camp has raised a similar amount, leading a layperson to believe the issue will be an expensive race if the signatures are verified.

Halei Watkins, the communications director for King County Elections, said it's too late for the issue to make it on the November ballot. 

Instead, Watkins said it will take two to four weeks to process and verify the signatures, and if verified, the election would happen in 45-90 days. She said the only certain thing is the election would be on a Tuesday, and the recall would be the only issue on the ballot. 

Those ballots would only be sent to voters in Sawant's district, which includes Capitol Hill, Madison Park, the Central District, Madrona and Leschi. 

If recalled, the Seattle City Council would then appoint a replacement to fill out the term, according to Watkins.

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