Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant has long been an outspoken voice for socialist ideals with an utter disregard for the city’s business community. She has also inserted rudeness, bullying and shoddy ethics into City Hall, which has done profound disservice to her District 3 constituency and the city. Voters should hold Sawant accountable for transgressions against civil governance and remove her from office.
Ballots for a Dec. 7 recall election will start arriving in District 3 mailboxes this week, asking whether voters should remove Sawant from the council seat she has held since 2014. Voters should resoundingly vote yes.
Sawant spent public money on her political stumping, helped lead a march on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s house despite the confidentiality of its address and broke City Hall’s COVID-19 lockdown to usher in hundreds of protesters. Often at odds with a majority of the council, Sawant has not matured into an effective representative, instead choosing rhetoric over substance, and disregarding any civic norm that comes between her and a microphone.
Her strongly liberal district stretches from Montlake through Capitol Hill to the Central District. A map of the city’s most liberal neighborhoods based on political donations overlaps heavily with the district precincts where Sawant won more than 60% of votes in 2019. Sawant has sold this constituency a bill of goods. She leverages the desire for a left-wing voice in City Hall to entrench herself — and then misuses her capital for disruption and impractical solutions. This harms the city’s ability to govern itself and needs to stop.
Sawant has been in office longer than any other council member yet incredibly shows the least wisdom about effectiveness. The progressive policies that would help the city reform policing, house the homeless and build public safety are not aided by Sawant’s intransigence and antics.
She previously showed capacity to be a cagey tactician and helped push the council’s 2014 passage of a $15 city minimum wage. She was also behind the later iterations of a poorly thought-out payroll tax on high-paying jobs. Since reelection in 2019, she has unapologetically done real harm and little good, filibustering pet issues like free parking for construction workers onto council agendas and goading the council to further destabilize police.
There is a very real danger that failing to pass the recall vote now would only embolden future steamrolling of ethics and good governance. Without a decent record to run on, Sawant persistently muddies the waters against the recall, spewing calumnies in hope of triggering voters one more time.
“This recall is part of the racist, right-wing backlash nationally against Black Lives Matter,” she claimed on the Nov. 10 episode of municipal television’s City Inside/Out.
Sawant has not responded to requests to speak with this editorial board.
The district is certain to keep staunchly progressive representation if Sawant is recalled. A majority vote of the council would name Sawant’s replacement. Of the eight members who would vote on the choice, six committed just a year ago to deep police defunding. The council seat would remain as liberal as the district.
But the residents and business owners would be free of an egregiously abrasive council representative. And that would be a mighty progressive step toward a better-functioning council and city.