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ocialist Alternative Seattle, Washington District 3 City Council member Kshama Sawant declared “apparent victory” Friday morning after taking a razor-thin lead in her bid to defeat a billionaire-backed recall effort.
“We did not back down in fighting for workers.”
The election swung Sawant’s way Thursday as she received more than two-thirds of the votes counted that day and as the number of outstanding ballots in the high turnout election continued to dwindle. According to the latest tally by King County election officials, the yes on the recall side had 49.71% to the no side’s 50.29%.
“It appears we have defeated the combined efforts of Big Business, the right wing, the corporate media, the court, and the political establishment who sought to remove our socialist council office by any means necessary,” Sawant told a crowd of cheering supporters and journalists Friday morning.
“We won because we did not back down… instead we went on the offensive,” she said. “We did not back down in fighting for workers.”
The Kshama Solidarity Campaign said after Thursday’s daily election update that Sawant had a 232-vote lead. She had been steadily chipping away at the “yes” campaign’s lead, receiving 62% of nearly 7,000 ballots cast on Wednesday and 68% of Thursday’s votes.
According to King County Elections, a total of 41,364 ballots were turned in by District 3 voters, 40,629 of which have been counted as of Thursday evening. That number could be also subject to change as ballots postmarked by the Tuesday deadline trickle in by mail. Of the estimated 735 uncounted ballots, at least 591 need to have a signature challenge resolved. That’s down from 656 signature challenges leading into Thursday, with KCE resolving an average of between 20 to 60 a day.
Sawant began Friday’s press conference by congratulating Buffalo, New York-area Starbucks workers for their successful unionization effort.
“It is a sign of things to come,” she said. “Former Starbucks CEO and Seattle District 3 resident Howard Schulz had a very bad day yesterday; between Starbucks workers beginning to take off their chains and our apparent victory here in Seattle, it was terrible news all around for the capitalist bums.”
“We now have before us a real opportunity to win rent control, but we need to go on the offensive next year to make this happen.”
Sawant credited the grassroots get-out-the-vote effort of her staff and volunteers for the recall result, “and the political clarity of socialist ideas that guided every effort to win this historic victory for working folks.”
Elections officials said turnout was around 53%, an extraordinary figure for a special election and nearly as high as the 55% level seen during last year’s general election.
While Sawant enjoys broad working-class support for taking on Big Tech, real estate developers, and landlords—and for leading the push to make Seattle the first major U.S. city with a $15 hourly minimum wage—those same actions have made powerful enemies among billionaires and other right-wing figures who are among the recall’s leading backers.
The “no” campaign is supported by numerous labor unions, racial justice activists, and leftist luminaries including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky, labor leader Sara Nelson, and actress and activist Susan Sarandon.
Sawant said the next big battle is rent control.
“We now have before us a real opportunity to win rent control,” she said at the press conference, “but we need to go on the offensive next year to make this happen.”
This post has been updated with details from Kshama Sawant’s Friday press conference.