Kathy Lambert's offensive, racist mailer
One side of a racist mailer sent out by Kathy Lambert's campaign. Lambert has refused to apologize for the mailer.

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.

Kathy Lambert's offensive, racist mailer
One side of a racist mail­er sent out by Kathy Lam­bert’s cam­paign. Lam­bert has refused to apol­o­gize for the mail­er. Click to enlarge.

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.

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%.

Per­ry also improved her posi­tion in the late bal­lots and cap­tured Lam­bert’s north Red­mond precinct, alarm­ing Lam­bert and her camp even more.

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.

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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