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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 9, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 41
District 3 City Council race turns ugly
Charges made that Pamela Banks supporters bought 37th District Dem endorsement
Section One
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District 3 City Council race turns ugly
Charges made that Pamela Banks supporters bought 37th District Dem endorsement

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Less than a week after City Council member Kshama Sawant and her District 3 challenger Pamela Banks faced off in a heated one-on-one debate, charges surfaced that Banks supporters bought a key endorsement.

Sawant and Banks squared off on October 4 in an often tense debate, with Banks labeling Sawant as ego-driven and divisive, and Sawant replying that her opponent was supported by big business and political insiders.

Only two days later, the story broke that Sawant supporters have filed ethics charges alleging that her City Council colleague Bruce Harrell bought the 37th District Democrats' surprise endorsement of Banks on September 21.

Sawant supporters Pam Keeley - a member of the 37th district Democrats board - and Jonathan Rosenblum charge that:

o someone paid for a block of 15 new memberships in the 37th District Democrats organization,

o that only 10 of the new members actually lived in the district,

o that they all showed up at the group's endorsement meeting wearing Bruce Harrell campaign T-shirts, and

o Harrell appeared to be instructing them how to vote.

Several of the new members were employees of a single company - East Side for Hire, a for-hire car service.

Their memberships were paid by money order, and the money orders were all numbered sequentially, indicating they'd been purchased at the same time and in the same place.

According to Keeley, at least one of the new 37th District members was instructed by his employer to join, which would be illegal.

The Harrell campaign denied the allegations in a Facebook post.

'The facts alleged [in] the complaint below are untrue. We have submitted declarations under penalty of perjury that the 15 members who joined the 37th were not part of our campaign and our campaign did not pay for any members' dues,' their statement said.

'The campaign never even knew who these members were during the endorsement process and they were never introduced to members of the campaign.'

The chair of the Democratic organization, Rory O'Sullivan also posted a statement, saying that any ethics violations were the fault of his organization and not of the Harrell campaign.

Since Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative party and not a Democrat, she is disqualified from getting a Democratic organization's endorsement. The 37th District did not endorse anyone for District 3 in the primary election, and Sawant supporters hoped for a 'No Endorsement' again.

The 43rd District Dems also voted a 'No Endorsement' in their meeting last month.

If the ethics complaint proves to be true, it will confirm Sawant's charges that Banks is being bankrolled by political insiders and developers. If they are not proven, it may support Banks' charge that Sawant is nasty and divisive.

Meanwhile, the District 3 race continues to be one of the most expensive in the city. Sawant was first to reach the $300,000 donation mark with just under $326,000 raised as of October 5. Banks is close behind with $299,160.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have contributed to the Kshama Sawant campaign.)

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