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Sawant recall effort launched over ‘a criminal environment around the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest’ — UPDATE

Sawant during a June protest outside Durkan’s house organized by the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America

Seattle’s political scene is turning nasty with formal recall efforts targeting Mayor Jenny Durkan and now her longtime nemesis on the Seattle City Council, Kshama Sawant.

A self-purported “grassroots effort” to recall Sawant was launched this week by District 3 resident Ernie Lou on on behalf of a “Recall City of Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant Committee.”

“While, the majority of the citizens in District 3 are very liberal, we strongly feel that Councilmember Sawant’s actions and policy proposals are not supported by a majority of District 3 residents,” Lou says in a statement on the effort. “As the legal process moves forward, the campaign will be focused on raising awareness of our campaign and raising money to help in our petition signature gathering effort.”

The complaints against Sawant focus on ethics and abuse of office issues that have already been the subject of complaint including the use of her office to promote the Tax Amazon initiative and the sway her Socialist Alternative political group has in her City Hall office. The recall organization also cites Sawant’s role in recent protests including a march and rally at Mayor Durkan’s home, providing access for a brief occupation of City Hall, and for creating “a Criminal Environment Around the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP) Zone and Capitol Hill Endangering Residents and Businesses and Devaluing Businesses and Real Estate Values.”

Durkan had called on the city council to investigate a similar set of allegations but was rebuffed in July.

Durkan, meanwhile, is also facing a recall effort of her own where protests and CHOP play a large role in the allegations she has not done enough to quell civil unrest.

Other city leaders area also facing fallout from the summer of protest. In West Seattle, a threatened recall effort against city council rep Lisa Herbold has not advanced to the legal part of the process.

CHOP and the Capitol Hill protest zone are also the subject of a lawsuit against the city by a group of Capitol Hill real estate developers and small businesses. The city says the suit should be dismissed.

For the Sawant recall petition, a King County Superior Court judge will assess the complaints to make sure they meet legal requirements and the signature gathering phase can move forward. The recall effort would then have until early 2021 to gather just over 10,000 signatures — “25% of the total number of votes cast (42,956) in the November 5, 2019 general election for City of Seattle Council Position #3.”

In the meantime, Lou and supporters are looking for money to help with the campaign. “While only voters in District 3 are eligible to sign the petition, anyone can donate up to $25 to help pay for signature gathering,” the announcement notes.

Lou currently works as the development director at Capitol Hill nonprofit Three Dollar Bill Cinema where he is working to raise donations for the Seattle Queer Film Festival and the city transgender-focused Translations Film Festival.

UPDATE 8/20/2020 9:00 AM: Three Dollar Bill has released a statement on the recall effort distancing itself from “independent contractor” Lou:

It has come to Three Dollar Bill Cinema’s attention that an independent contractor for our organization is leading an effort to recall Seattle City Councilmember, Kshama Sawant.

Three Dollar Bill Cinema’s board of directors and employees had no knowledge of this campaign, nor are associated with this recall effort. The statements and actions of this contractor are solely his own and do not reflect or represent Three Dollar Bill Cinema.

Three Dollar Bill Cinema is a non-profit arts organization that strengthens, connects, and reflects diverse communities through queer film and media. The organization is committed to supporting diverse communities through queer film and media and has been working tirelessly to create space for connection, visibility and dialogue about the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA+ and QTBIPOC people.

We’ve asked Three Dollar about whether Lou will continue working with the film nonprofit and will update when we hear back.

UPDATE 8/20/2020: “Ernie Lou is no longer on contract with Three Dollar Bill Cinema,” a spokesperson tells CHS.

You can review the petition and learn more at The group’s full announcement is below.

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62 thoughts on “Sawant recall effort launched over ‘a criminal environment around the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest’ — UPDATE” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Sawant is praised by many for her methods, though some have accused her of trying to steal any spotlight for her own agenda (she was quick to claim the CHOP as “our movement” but only was physically there once, changed the topic from racism back to the Amazon tax the moment she was given a mic, etc). I personally would love to see a more sincere and pragmatic council person in her place so I was happy to follow the link and add my name but then I found it suspiciously sketchy that this recall effort *requires* donation in order to sign. Sketch-a-rooni…

    • not sure what problem you ran into but I donated $25 and emailed the organizer to count me in as a volunteer. There isn’t anything to sign yet so not sure what you mean… the petition has to be looked at by election/county officials first before we can sign it… you don’t have to donate, in fact, just sign the petition when it’s certified which makes it official… pretty simple.

    • The link isn’t to the petition but a contribution form to help with costs of the recall. The petition hasn’t been given the go-ahead by Dan Satterberg yet. Until that happens, actual signatures can’t be collected. Once they can be collected, I doubt you’ll be required to pay to sign.

    • I don’t believe that a donation is required. If there eventually is a formal petition process, anyone will be able to sign that petition without donating.

      I REALLY hope this effort is successful!

  2. I sent this group my $25 and wish them luck gathering the required 10K signatures during COVID.

    Her enemies list is horrifying: Uncle Ike’s, Amazon, Starbucks, etc. I am neither a fan nor shopper at these businesses. But they provide employment to tens of thousands of workers and generally improve our environs.

    Look no further than the dumpster fire of Cal Anderson Park. Give Sawant any more time and she will turn the entire city into this vision of a trashed environment full of unskilled angry mobsters.

  3. i have been pissed off at sawant since she voted to divest from wells fargo without coming up with any alternative solution for the city’s banking… that’s just bad policy.
    however, i voted for her again in the last election (while grinding my teeth) because somehow d3 could not come up with a better candidate! so i am not surprised by her co-opting of the BLM moment for her own agenda, and i don’t know what recalling her would really do at this point. this district needs better leadership, and until we vote someone else in who can show that leadership, i feel that we’re stuck with her. maybe her antagonistic style helps push other CMs to be the best versions of themselves they can be (such as Jumpstart Seattle appearing to be a much better plan than Tax Amazon).

    • interesting…im kind of in the same boat as you but didn’t support her last time around because she NEVER EVER comes around to our businesses to see how we’re doing. And the CHOP support she gave was bad bad precedent. I was disappointed with Egan’s campaign – or lack thereof actually…the next candidate should represent ALL of D3 including Capitol Hill PLEASE!

    • How about BECU or SALAL? Local credit unions that are way more helpful to customers than corporate fraudulent banks like Wells Fargo. Do some research and stop blaming people that are just holding criminals accountable. It really is that simple.

      • From what I remember those institutions did not have the bandwidth to deal with the city’s business. Only a few big banks could handle it so no change was possible.

      • Neither BECU nor Salal has the bandwidth to handle the myriad financial services required by a major American city. Not everyone needs just a checkbook and a secured credit card.

      • it is apparently illegal under state law for a city to bank with a credit union; i don’t know why. sawant’s response to this fact was, “well that should be changed!” but it’s like… you need to work with state legislators to make that change before you introduce this legislation. that’s how policy works.

    • You’re part of the problem then. Orion and DeWolfe were objectively better candidates. And realistically, anyone interested in doing the job would a better candidate, because she absolutely does not.

    • It’s also shady to encourage a lawless occupation where your constituents live. If she had her way the East Precinct would be a community center and we, her constituents, would have no police service. During CHOP, I needed the police and they would not come because I lived in the occupied area. It’s pretty terrifying when your elected officials completely abandon you in this way. She’s gotta go, no or later just as long as it happens soon.

    • She was reelected in 2019 and is not up for reelection until 2023. Next year has Durkan on the ballot (assuming she isn’t recalled), and our at-large City Councilmembers, Gonzalez and Mosqueda.

  4. gee, what a great way to ensure massive corporate funding for your film festival.

    meanwhile, homelessness gets worse and the rest of city council does nothing of substance to address it.

  5. Not pleased with how she responded to CHOP, her push for a head tax during a economically devastating pandemic, and her tacit endorsement of intimidation politics (the march on Durkan’s residence)

  6. I’m sick of her and Durkan and their PR antics and I voted for them both. But in reality I wish they would do their jobs instead of us having to recall them.

  7. Sawant is and has been a vocal supporter of trans & gay rights and has consistently championed economic and civil rights causes that are beneficial to us, as well as speaking up against racism and police brutality.

    Disturbing that someone who works at Three Dollar Bill Cinema would target someone who has considerable support in our community, very disappointed in them.

    • I literally laughed out loud and then figured your comment is from one of her ardent supporters or Sawant herself… Like trump supporters – You’re going to see and believe whatever it is the cult leader wants you to believe… Sawant has done NOTHING AT ALL for the LGBQT community except put many of our businesses OUT of business because of her CHOP support… She had her chance to support Capitol Hill and she chose to further her socialist causes. TIME TO GO!

      • exactly… and the organizer of the recall sawant petition is a big supporter of LGBTQ (obviously) and is pissed Sawant hasn’t been representing ALL OF US in D3… Im pissed for a lot of reasons but least of which is her absolutely FAKE support of LGBTQ which is contingent upon that person’s allegiance to socialism and her push to dismantle democracy and capitalism… Sawant is dangerous, out of control now and has to go.

    • There is no question that Council person Sawant has been vocal. Unfortunately that’s all she does is throw words like they were bombs. It’s really easy to stand on a soapbox with a megaphone and yell things at big institutions. It takes hard work to lead. It means that you actually listen to your constituents, not just your inner voice, and work with others to solve problems. She simply takes the easy route of blaming Amazon, Bezos, cops, whoever she can position as “The Bad Guy.” Unfortunately, the rest of the City Council approaches their job the same way. They all react to the latest squeaky wheel by removing it instead of making the effort to fix it.

    • If she cared about gay rights and civil rights, she would have restored order before the first child was murdered in Chop, she would have condemned the Chop “security” preventing police and paramedic entry to save the lives of both the first and 2nd shooting victims who died and were black children by the way, she would have acted to restore order while black-owned businesses were being ransacked and looted, she would have given up her private, taxpayer-paid armed security detail while agitating to remove everyone else’s police, and she would have recognized the great work that Carmen Best, the first female black police chief in Seattle did working with the Federal government since 2010 to reform the PD, and she wouldn’t have pushed to remove the only completely non-lethal riot control device that SPD had.

  8. Donated and looking forward to getting this recall certified and the vote to begin. She is a grandstander and opportunist. If it is not her righteous cause or in her personal self interest, you do not count. Numerous emails and requests for assistance with issues in our neighborhood have gone unanswered. She is not working for our District or our City at all. LikeTrump, she panders to her base of lemmings.

    • What exactly is her righteous cause or personal self interest? Helping homeless people??? That’s a cause that has needed support since Amazon showed up and made the area completely unaffordable for anyone not working in tech or for the city. Let me guess what your requests could have potentially been.. your parks not looking pretty and homeless people living in them just trying to survive? Having to look at them everyday and never offer support? I bet that’s exactly what you’re pissed about. Get over yourself.

      • The housing and homeless problems is not single-faceted. Blaming the entire affair on Amazon, and taxing the workforce out of the city won’t accomplish anything outside of having empty high priced real estate and a run on that real estate by the banks and monied persons abroad looking to export capital from less stable countries into a stable asset in our local economy. If you don’t think it’s possible, ask Canada.

        At the point, the prices won’t drop and the banks will make purchasing untenable as their new favorite form of bundleable asset is renters debt.

        But yeah, sure, it’s all Amazon’s fault.

  9. This is nothing more than a petty action done by haters. While not perfect she’s done a LOT of good has raised a lot of visibility and is a damn side better council person than most of them. We need MORE progressives not less.

    • agreed. people acting like this city council is “progressive” is pure madness. Kshama is the only councilmember articulating goals for expanding our social safety and protecting the lives of our most vulnerable.

      Homelessness affects Transgender citizens at much higher rates than any other demographic, and along with that comes higher rates of homicide. Ernie Lou should be ASHAMED of trying to oust the only councilmember fighting tooth and nail for our homeless and trans friends to have a brighter economic future.

      The influence of this back-to-brunch neoliberal trash culture must be curbed.

  10. I think she’s not the only one that needs to go, the other members stayed silent which saids to me they support her. Defunding the police won’t make our problems go away, they need to be available against crime and violence, the job needs to be reorganized, somethings they are called for should really go elsewhere.

    The other thing I am not happy with is Jumpstart2020, on the surface it may look like it only affects those with high income but I think eventually it will affect everyone. What would happen if those people and businesses move out of Seattle, those whose businesses rely on these people would either have to move or close. Sales tax is good enough, people spend differently at different income levels. Is there a need to double tax, sales tax plus income tax? Can’t continue to provide existing services let alone add new ones if there’s nobody to tax.

    • from one HB to another, sales tax is incredibly regressive. “people spend differently at different income levels” is not a sufficient justification for lower income people paying higher tax rates than the wealthy.

      i make under the $150,000 threshold for jumpstart’s income tax; i hope it does eventually affect me too.

      • You’re fine if it has a negative affect on you then? If your job gets cut because those who get taxed because of this takes their business elsewhere you would be happy? That’s the affect that I’m talking about, I don’t know what affect you think it may have for you.

    • City needs to learn to live within its existing Tax system. NOBODY supports another tax except Sawant of which I promise you she has avoided to pay her share via under the table compensation that her hubby gets from SA and 15now.

  11. What are the grounds for recalling Sawant? It was Durkan who ordered the police to retreat from east precinct and created CHOP. It might be true that Sawant would have done the same thing in her place, but Durkan is the mayor and she made the call. Durkan has to own it.

    These constant made up scandals surrounding Sawant are bizarre. The other one was that she used the office printer to make some flyers? Who the hell cares?

    The same people criticizing her for using the office printer were trying to get Heidi Wills elected back to the city council in the last election cycle. Heidi Wills took money FROM THE MOB the last time she was a council member. That’s an actual scandal.

    • I’m equally mystified as to why people are so strongly against Sawant, she’s literally fighting for those less fortunate. I don’t think she’s been perfect but she’s been far more proactive than Durkan who seems to be paid off by big corporations and cares very little about people in need. Chop was a direct result of Durkan’s orders, so maybe direct more anger towards her rather than someone progressively trying to help those in need. Someone more moderate like Durkan never seems to do anything besides line their own pockets with cash and help people that already have plenty, everyone else gets fake promises that do not lead to productive change. Durkan is tear gassing people that do not agree with her.

      • Why am I against Sawant? (and fwiw, I’ve never voted for her) – because she’s a marxist and I don’t believe that marxism is a viable system of government…… pie in the sky talk about how it’s never been a success because it’s just never been implemented correctly doesn’t change my mind, because I believe it’s based on premises that are incorrect, and thus it can never be implemented successfully. And please don’t try to tell me about Norway…. Scandinavian style social democracy is not what she and the SA are looking to create.

    • Brenden — Many of us think it’s a true scandal that Kshama lets Socialist Alternative literally instruct her how she will vote on key issues, craft her legislative positions, and hire/fire her city employed staff members.

      She does not represent D3 residents. She represents Socialist Alternative whose goal is to increase membership not the good of Seattle. And these decision makers at SA are unknown, meet in secret, don’t disclose anything about their finances or leadership structure. This is established fact.

      Socialist Alternative then essentially pays her off by employing her husband, takes responsibility for the vast majority of her campaign fundraising (which also pays husband again), and then again hires her husband for the Tax Amazon initiative. And SA pays for a decent chunk of her travel expenses.

      • Clearly she does represent D3 residents because she was democratically voted in. Maybe you don’t know your neighbors well enough.

      • Representing your district includes addressing all the mundane issues in your district, not just the dogmatic ones that consume you. And it includes representing ALL the voters in your district, including the ones who voted for your opponent, or even that didn’t vote at all. People constantly complain about contacting her office and never hearing back at all, even an acknowledgement, if it’s not one of her pet issues. You hear that complaint so often, they can’t all be making it up.

    • It is not true that Durkan ordered the SPD to abandon the east precinct. Both she and Best have denied that they issued this order, and Best has said that this order came from high-level commanders at the precinct.

      If you have some evidence that this was Durkan’s order, then let’s hear it.

  12. Our elected officials are supposed to uphold and defend the constitution which includes serving and protecting it’s citizens. Mayor Durkan and Gov Jay Inslee spit on the constitution when they told SPD to stand down when they should be allowed to do their jobs! Protect and serve the community. They both should be arrested as traitors. And so this clearly demonstrates the hate they have for our country and citizens. I voted democrat for 50 years but now I #walked away! If they want to live in a socialist or communist country they should pack up and move there. The democrats promise everything and deliver nothing. Open your eyes sheeple! This is just the beginning and if we as a people keep voting them in we will be in a world we don’t even recognize. Globalization equals slavery. Everyone gets a small piece, no motivation to create, no motivation to run your own business, and eventual experimentation on its citizens. Just please wake up and #walk away. They do not deserve the positions they hold.

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