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from key donors and endorsers stating that they were abandoning her, including the Realtors and the Mariners, who rescinded their endorsements.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.
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.