For more than two decades, Republican Kathy Lambert has represented a large, suburban/exurban/rural swath of King County on its legislative body, the Council, without any serious challenge to her incumbency.
But this year, with all the signs suggesting that Lambert’s number is up, the Redmond Republican has decided to resort to Trump-style gutter politics and dog whistling to attack her Democratic challenger Sarah Perry in the hopes that left leaning voters will fill in the oval for her instead when voting starts next week.
In a set of mailers being sent out to voters across the district, Lambert is falsely characterizing herself as an “independent” (she’s not) and ludicrously yelping that Sarah Perry would be a tool of “Seattle socialists,” including King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, the county’s only Black councilmember.
The latter Lambert mailer shows the Photoshopped head of Zahilay at the top, with Perry depicted as a marionette attached to strings on the bottom.
United States Senator Bernie Sanders, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant are depicted alongside Zahilay.
Lambert’s Democratic colleagues are naturally furious about the racist mailer, and they jointly put out a statement today denouncing it.
“Put simply, this is a racist piece of political mail. It has no place in any public or private discourse here in King County,” the statement said.
“Planning, authorizing and mailing a communication like this betrays ignorance at best, deep seated racism at worst,” it continued. “Regardless, it demonstrates disrespect for the fundamental duty that the residents of King County give to all of their elected representatives — the duty to respect and serve everyone who resides in King County, regardless of race or ethnicity.”
“We call upon Councilmember Lambert to apologize to our colleague here on the Council, to her political opponent, and to the residents of King County for subjecting everyone, especially our friends, families and constituents of color, to this hurtful and painful communication.”
The statement was signed by Council Chair Claudia Balducci (6th District) and Councilmembers Rod Dembowski (1st District), Jeanne Kohl-Welles (4th District), Vice Chair Joe McDermott (6th District), Dave Upthegrove (5th District), and Girmay Zahilay (2nd District). King County Executive Dow Constantine issued his own, separate condemnation of the mailer alongside the Council majority’s.
This, of course, is not the first time that Kathy Lambert has made racist comments or offensive remarks, so this mailer is sadly consistent with who she is and how she behaves. As the great American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Lambert has previously shown us who she is. Now she’s showing us again.
Lambert and her consultants know — because they’ve done polling — that the 3rd County Council District is no longer friendly turf for Republicans. It’s full of Democratic and Democratic leaning voters who voted for Democrats, from President Biden to Governor Inslee, in federal and state elections last year.
If the only support that Lambert gets is from Republicans and a few independents, she will lose. So she’s hoping to split up the universe of Democratic voters and scare at least some percentage of that part of the electorate into voting for her using her colleague Councilmember Zahilay as a bogeyman.
Zahilay told The Seattle Times he initially assumed the mailer was the work of an independent expenditure, or IE, as it has all the characteristics of an IE mailer.
Then he found out it was created by Lambert’s campaign.
“Painting the Black elected official with a foreign-sounding name as an enemy to suburban and rural values is nothing new,” Zahilay wrote on Twitter. “In my two years on the Council the number of racist and xenophobic messages, and even threats, I get weekly has been alarming. It’s sad that my own colleague would fuel these attacks for cheap political points in a race that I’m not even in.”
Lambert’s campaign signaled that it was going to go nasty several weeks ago.
Not long after the Top Two election had been certified, NPI obtained a copy of an online poll believed to be Lambert’s which contained a number of loaded questions testing attacks against Sarah Perry. One of those attacks was:
Now, please read these statements about Sarah Perry.
After each one, please indicate whether that statement makes you more likely or less likely to vote for her.
STATEMENT: Sarah Perry is supported by Seattle Socialist leader Girmay Zahilay who wants to defund the police. Girmay and Sarah share an extreme agenda that will take cops off the streets and release criminals into our neighborhoods.
- Much less likely to vote for her
- Somewhat less likely
- More likely to vote for her
- No difference or unsure
We don’t know what the responses were to this particular statement, but it’s obviously one of the attacks that Lambert’s campaign has decided to use.
Lambert has a large war chest she’s pouring into these mailers.
A lot of the money is left over from past campaigns in which she did not have a strong opponent. This year, her opponent is Perry, who has a first-rate work ethic and a proven record of grassroots organizing for Democratic candidates.
(For the record, I am a friend of Sarah Perry’s and have donated to her campaign for the Council in my individual capacity as a Democratic activist. NPI doesn’t endorse candidates or engage in electioneering for or against any candidate.)
Perry and another Democratic candidate jointly garnered almost sixty percent of the vote in the August Top Two election, while Lambert only pulled in 40%.
Knowing Kathy Lambert and having spoken with her many times, I believe she is capable of thinking compassionately and reasoning using progressive values, and she has on occasion cast good votes on the Council.
But sadly, underneath her veneer of reasonableness and sweetness are some very dark, unwelcoming, racist, and misogynist beliefs.
Lambert could have chosen to leave the Republican Party when it became a Trump-worshiping cult and rejected the politics of Donald Trump.
She didn’t. She has remained a staunch Republican.
She’s only calling herself an “independent” because she knows she will not be reelected if she campaigns as the person and politician that she truly is.
Desperate gambits by Republicans in Eastside races are nothing new.
We saw them four years ago in the State Senate race that pitted Democratic hopeful Manka Dhingra (a Northwest Progressive Foundation boardmember) against Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund. A flood of Republican-sent mail and a barrage of television ads tried to characterize Dhingra as a socialist.
(Lambert went all in for Jinyoung Lee Englund in that race, hosting a fundraiser for her and accompanying her to candidate forums.)
The nasty attack ads did not work. Dhingra won handily and has been in the Washington State Senate ever since. The 45th is no longer considered a swing district, although it’s about to be redrawn along with the state’s other districts.
If the same pattern holds this year, Lambert will lose and will leave the Council in disgrace, having alienated her Council colleagues and unnecessarily caused pain and division in the community that she claims to love so much.