Backers of the campaign against City Councilmember Kshama Sawant are hoping to put the recall question to District 3 voters on a special election ballot of its own, a campaign representative said at a Thursday afternoon press conference in Cal Anderson Park following Thursday’s state Supreme Court decision allowing the recall to continue.
Henry Bridger, campaign manager and chair of the Recall Sawant campaign, said the recall vote cannot appear on the August primary ballot and officials have told the campaign a special election can’t be held between the primary and the November General Election. The recall campaign backers also don’t want to appear on the General Election ballot, Bridger said.
High turnout could be a concern with general elections typically bringing out higher rates of participation. But this D3 question could be different. With the 2021 elections deciding both a hotly contested mayoral race and the two citywide seats on the Seattle City Council, there may be concern about the recall question driving heavy turnout in District 3, potentially impacting the massively important races.
“This is about her, not about electing someone,” Bridger said Thursday at the Cal Anderson press conference when asked about the strategy.
The recall proponents have 180 days to gather a little over 10,000 signatures — or 25% of the nearly 43,000 votes cast in her November 2019 race — in District 3 across Capitol Hill, the Central District, and nearby neighborhoods to put the issue on the ballot. Despite the unanimous Supreme Court opinion supporting the lower court ruling allowing the recall to move forward, Recall Sawant can’t immediately start collecting signatures.
Bridger said the language of the ballot synopsis summarizing the recall charges against Sawant must now be finalized back in the lower King County Superior Court before the signature effort can formally begin. The recall campaign hopes that issue will be wrapped up quickly — perhaps next week, Bridger said.
So, who is trying to Recall Sawant? Only Bridger appeared at Thursday’s conference. He thanked original recall complaint filer Ernie Lou but said the campaign was moving forward under guidance of a committee now, not the D3 resident. The members are “retirees, hard workers,” Bridger said, “no billionaires” as Bridger said Sawant and the Kshama Solidarity campaign has characterized the recall effort.
Kshama Solidarity, meanwhile, is already moving forward on its efforts to organize against the recall effort even it is unlikely to be able to do more than convince a few in the middle ground to not sign the petition. The group is holding a rally at Cal Anderson Saturday “to build the Kshama Solidarity Campaign and defend against this attack on all working people.”
UPDATE: “We are stepping up our decline-to-sign effort with a COVID-safe grassroots campaign,” a campaign spokesperson tells CHS. “Our next step will be our rally tomorrow (Saturday) at Cal Anderson Park, beginning at 11am and taking place with full masking and social distancing.”
“We will counter the misinformation, right-wing and racist tropes, and outright lies of the recall campaign by building a continuous movement of working people with broad support in District 3 and throughout Seattle,” the rep said.
Both campaigns have built hefty warchests totaling over $720,000 combined, according to SEEC filings. The pro-Sawant camp has raised over $426,000, as of Tuesday, and the recall effort nearly $295,000. Compare this to her 2019 re-election bid when Sawant raised over $586,000 and her opponent nearly $404,000.
Sawant’s effort has been fueled by larger sums with nearly much of the campaign’s cash coming in increments of $700 or more. Around 74% of the recall supporters contributed $25 or less, compared to about 35% for Sawant. The pro-Sawant average contribution size is $107 and the anti-Sawant one is $67.
Those small donations add up to one big factor in the campaign — contributors at $25 or below don’t have to disclose their names.
Meanwhile, the contribution totals back up one criticism from the Recall Sawant crowd — 65% of Sawant’s financial support has come from outside the city. Only 34% of the recall campaign came from beyond Seattle — or reported no address.
Top recall donors include Jeannie Nordstrom, the wife of the former chairman and CEO of the department store, art gallery owner Stacey Levitan, and web hosting firm Sound Strategies. You can view a full list of Recall Sawant contributions here.
Max $1,000 contributors to the pro-Sawant side include individuals from Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and several from Pittsburgh. Prominent local donors include a University of Washington coronavirus researcher who has been called the “Nate Silver of public health.” State employees, followed by Microsoft and Amazon and Whole Foods workers, have given the most to support Sawant. You can view a full list of Kshama Solidarity contributions here.
Sawant’s campaign has surged ahead since February, the last time CHS reported on the fundraising. Since then, Sawant, with the city picking up the cost of her legal defense against the recall, has pulled well ahead.
Asked about his modest description of the recall campaign and its resources going up against the Sawant fundraising juggernaut Thursday afternoon, Bridger said he believed the Recall Sawant effort could hold its own, saying that the recall campaign’s backers were like most people in District 3 — “Democrat or liberal.” Bridger also struck a familiar chord for many Sawant critics — the Socialist Alternative leader is out of touch with the actual problems of her district. “I’ve never ever seen her presence on the Hill,” Bridger said.
The recall campaign will be a tougher battleground for Sawant, he said.
“It’s not a national thing.”
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