Kathy Lambert with her dog
Kathy Lambert with her dog

Only hours after tripling down on her cam­paign’s use of racist, xeno­pho­bic mail­ers to attack her Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Sarah Per­ry, incum­bent Repub­li­can King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Kathy Lam­bert wrote in a post­ing that she has fired her cam­paign con­sul­tant and is sor­ry for the pain and divi­sion that she has caused.

“I need to apol­o­gize for the harm that the fly­er has caused to Coun­cilmem­ber Zahi­lay, my col­leagues, the pub­lic I have long worked for and appre­ci­ate and to my fam­i­ly,” Lam­bert’s post stat­ed. “My ded­i­ca­tion and heart are not to hurt, but to serve. This mes­sage is cer­tain­ly not what was intend­ed. I have ter­mi­nat­ed my con­sul­tants [sic] con­tract and look for­ward to mov­ing ahead in a more pos­i­tive direc­tion. I want to con­tin­ue to focus on the good ahead as well as the great work we have done togeth­er over the last twen­ty years. Again, I am very sorry.”

Just hours ear­li­er, Lam­bert’s cam­paign Face­book page had offered a very dif­fer­ent mes­sage, one appar­ent­ly draft­ed by her now fired con­sul­tants at 1892 LLC, a firm that has a rep­u­ta­tion for slim­i­ness and hard­ball tactics.

“An update from the trail!” it began.

“Our cam­paign sent a mail­er show­ing that my oppo­nent will be a rub­ber stamp for bring­ing rad­i­cal Seat­tle poli­cies to the East­side. My oppo­nent was the hand­picked can­di­date of extreme Seat­tle politi­cians because she backs their failed agen­da that will result in more home­less­ness and crime to our neighborhood.”

“She is now mak­ing out­ra­geous state­ments attack­ing me per­son­al­ly. I will not back down, because the future of the East­side is too important.”

“Elec­tions are about choic­es. And the choice for the East­side is clear,” the mes­sage’s con­clud­ing para­graph said. “If you want to bring the prob­lems of down­town Seat­tle to our neigh­bor­hoods, vote for the hand­picked can­di­date the down­town Seat­tle rad­i­cals are fund­ing. If you want to con­tin­ue our great work, to make our neigh­bor­hood a bet­ter place, I would be hon­ored to have your support.”

Lam­bert’s about face came in the wake of a slew of announce­ments from key donors and endorsers stat­ing that they were aban­don­ing her, includ­ing the Real­tors and the Mariners, who rescind­ed their endorse­ments. (The Mariners also gave $1,000 to Per­ry.) Pre­vi­ous­ly, the Seat­tle Times edi­to­r­i­al board had unen­dorsed Lam­bert’s can­di­da­cy, the first time it has done so in a decade.

Seat­tle Times reporter David Gut­man has a recap of the key devel­op­ments in a sto­ry that I imag­ine will be on the front page of tomor­row’s paper.

While Lam­bert’s apol­o­gy is a start, it isn’t enough.

Lam­bert owes Sarah Per­ry a per­son­al apol­o­gy. She needs to explic­it­ly renounce the con­tent of the mail­ers and acknowl­edge that they were racist and xenophobic.

It is telling that her state­ment began with the words, “I need to apologize”.

That’s a tac­it admis­sion that she’s offer­ing this apol­o­gy because she feels she has to, not because it’s the right thing to do. And say­ing “This mes­sage is cer­tain­ly not what was intend­ed” are not words that are appro­pri­ate for a gen­uine apol­o­gy —  because even if her con­sul­tants cre­at­ed the mail­er, she signed off on it. She’s the can­di­date and is respon­si­ble for the con­tent of all of her advertising.

Our team at NPI is hope­ful that Kathy will go fur­ther and state pub­licly that send­ing the mail­ers and mak­ing racist attacks was wrong, that she now real­izes this, and that she pledges nev­er to use racist imagery or lan­guage ever again.

It would also be very help­ful if Kathy acknowl­edged that it’s not suf­fi­cient for a leader to mere­ly refrain from racist, xeno­pho­bic lan­guage and conduct.

True lead­ers are antiracists.

Kathy Lam­bert clear­ly has a long, long way to go in her antiracism journey.

But, as the say­ing goes, there’s no time to start like the present.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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