On August 18, a petition was launched to recall Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, an open socialist, from her position. On Tuesday, the Seattle City Council voted to pay for Sawant’s legal defense, 7-1, with Councilmember Debora Juarez the only member to vote against the idea.
Councilmember Alex Pedersen stated, “Councilmember Sawant was reelected less than a year ago. Adequate legal counsel should be available to a duly elected official defending a recall petition whether or not they can afford such representation.” Councilmember Andrew Lewis echoed, “I want to be clear that I’m voting yes and in doing so not commenting on the merits of the recall’s allegations and voting for the values of our democracy here in Seattle. It’s a slippery slope if we start picking and choosing who does or doesn’t receive this legal representation.”
Council President Lorena Gonzalez said, “For those people who think it is extraordinary to use taxpayer dollars to pay for legal defense, this is not a novel idea, as we have a criminal justice system built on the concept of providing free legal defense to those who request it.”
“The ordinance would cover the costs of the outside lawyers Sawant has already hired to fight the recall effort, the city attorney’s office said, a sum City Council staff estimated at $75,000,” The Seattle Times noted.
MyNorthwest outlined the allegations in the petition:
- That Sawant misused council resources to promote a ballot initiative in early February
- That she violated City hiring rules by giving decision-making authority to Socialist Alternative
- That she revealed the address of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s home to protesters who later marched to her home
- That she endangered City employees by admitting hundreds of protesters into City Hall after hours
- That she “created a criminal environment” in the East Precinct area of Capitol Hill that ultimately led to the creation of the CHOP
On July 2, My Northwest reported that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a letter to Gonzalez urging her to investigate allegations against Sawant; Gonzalez refused, writing, “The public airing of issues amongst and between independently elected officials will not advance solutions on the deepening needs of our constituents. I remain focused on finding solutions and would welcome a letter from Mayor Durkan detailing her vision on how we can work together on enacting concrete solutions that meaningfully address these crises.”
The Seattle Times noted that a hearing will be held Wednesday to determine whether the recall effort can continue; Judge Jim Rogers must decide whether the accusations against Sawant are verifiable and serious enough to justify a recall.
In June, after a shooting in the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone in Seattle that left one protester dead and one in critical condition, Sawant ranted, “It is no accident that right-wing hate and violence has grown dramatically with Donald Trump in the White House. If this killing turns out to be a right-wing attack, President Trump bears direct responsibility, since he has fomented reactionary hatred specifically against the peaceful Capitol Hill occupation, and even threatened to intervene with federal troops.”