Sarah Perry speaks at her Election Night victory party
Councilmember-elect Sarah Perry addresses supporters at her Election Night victory party (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

One week ago, King Coun­ty Elec­tions released the ini­tial returns for the 2021 Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion, which showed that incum­bent Repub­li­can King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Kathy Lam­bert was well behind her Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger, Sarah Per­ry. Since then, thou­sands of addi­tion­al bal­lots have been tal­lied, but nei­ther Per­ry’s nor Lam­bert’s per­cent­ages have changed much. Per­ry con­tin­ues to have a more than ten point lead as of today, with 55.8%. Lam­bert is stuck at 43.87%.

Lam­bert released a state­ment on Novem­ber 8th say­ing that while dis­ap­point­ed in the results, she will work with Per­ry to plan a “thor­ough and com­plete transition.”

“I am hope­ful that our next Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber will have suc­cess while nav­i­gat­ing the many issues cur­rent­ly fac­ing the coun­ty and will do so in a way that rep­re­sents all voic­es — from our largest cities to our most rur­al and unin­cor­po­rat­ed areas,” said Lam­bert in a state­ment pro­vid­ed to NPI.

“I am incred­i­bly proud of the work that we have accom­plished togeth­er over the past two decades; from estab­lish­ing the Depart­ment of Local Ser­vices to help our unin­cor­po­rat­ed com­mu­ni­ties receive the ser­vices they need, to the many pro­grams to help our youth and reduce incar­cer­a­tion, like the com­mu­ni­ty court pro­gram, the SAFE, TRACE, and FIRS pro­grams,” Lam­bert added.

“I am also extra­or­di­nar­i­ly proud of the work we accom­plished dur­ing this pan­dem­ic, which includ­ed secur­ing over $1.6 bil­lion in fed­er­al funds to help our small busi­ness­es, mar­gin­al­ized groups and fam­i­lies weath­er the effects of the lock­down mea­sures,” Lam­bert continued.

“It has been an hon­or to serve Dis­trict Three for the past 20 years and it is won­der­ful look­ing back at all of the things we were able to accom­plish togeth­er — from the devel­op­ment of the depart­ment of local ser­vices, judi­cial reform and child pro­tec­tive pro­grams — King Coun­ty and dis­trict three have a his­to­ry of proac­tive­ly lead­ing from the front and being a mod­el for our nation.”

Sarah Per­ry’s cam­paign respond­ed to the con­ces­sion in an update to supporters:

I was pleased to receive a call from Kathy Lam­bert on Sun­day con­ced­ing the elec­tion. I would like to thank Kathy for her years of ser­vice to the coun­ty and state, and wish her the best.

I would also like to send a thank you, from the bot­tom of my heart, to each of the 1,034 indi­vid­ual sup­port­ers who con­tributed from $5 to $2,000 for a total raised of over $340,000.

As well as to those who knocked on over 25,000 doors, or drove me around as I talked with thou­sands of com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, or made 5,000 calls, or sent 50,000 texts, or host­ed one of the twen­ty House Par­ties, or attend­ed any of the twen­ty Sign Wav­ings, or sup­port­ed us with social media or data research, or help in any oth­er small or large way that, togeth­er, brought this win!

Please don’t hes­i­tate to reach out at any­time with ques­tions, or if you would like me to join your com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion for a meet & greet.

Now I can­not wait to get to work with you, and for you, whether you vot­ed for me or not, to tack­le the issues of tran­sit, the envi­ron­ment, safe com­mu­ni­ties and so much more.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Now… let’s get to work!

Lam­bert is the third incum­bent King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber to have been sent into retire­ment by vot­ers in the last six years. In 2015, vot­ers in the 6th Dis­trict oust­ed Repub­li­can Jane Hague from the Coun­cil, replac­ing her with Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci. And in 2019, vot­ers in the 2nd Dis­trict replaced long­time Coun­cilmem­ber Lar­ry Gos­sett with fel­low Demo­c­rat Gir­may Zahilay.

Per­ry’s win will cre­ate a 7–2 Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty on the Council.

Sarah Perry speaks at her Election Night victory party
Coun­cilmem­ber-elect Sarah Per­ry address­es sup­port­ers at her Elec­tion Night vic­to­ry par­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Offi­cial­ly, the Coun­cil is “non­par­ti­san,” owing to pas­sage of a Repub­li­can-craft­ed char­ter amend­ment sev­er­al years ago. But in prac­tice, the Coun­cil remains as par­ti­san as before the char­ter change, because pol­i­tics is inher­ent­ly partisan.

The remain­ing Repub­li­cans on the Coun­cil are Pete von Reich­bauer and Rea­gan Dunn, rep­re­sent­ing the 7th and 9th Dis­tricts, respec­tive­ly. Each of them is eas­i­ly win­ning reelec­tion, so they will serve through the 2025 elec­tion unless they were to resign. As of next year, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­cilmem­bers, by dis­trict, will be:

  • Rod Dem­bows­ki, 1st Dis­trict (just reelected)
  • Gir­may Zahi­lay, 2nd Dis­trict (up in 2023)
  • Sarah Per­ry, 3rd Dis­trict (just elected)
  • Jeanne Kohl-Welles, 4th Dis­trict (up in 2023)
  • Dave Upthe­grove, 5th Dis­trict (just reelected)
  • Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci, 6th Dis­trict (up in 2023)
  • Joe McDer­mott, 8th Dis­trict (up in 2023)

Lam­bert has been on the Coun­cil for over twen­ty years. She pre­vi­ous­ly served in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture pri­or to join­ing the Coun­cil. Until this year, she had not faced a strong Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent when seek­ing new terms.

After a poor show­ing in the Top Two round, Lam­bert and her con­sul­tant began look­ing for attack fod­der to use against Per­ry in the hopes of tear­ing her down. They test­ed over half a dozen poten­tial attacks in an online poll that field­ed after the Top Two elec­tion, then end­ed up cre­at­ing a hor­ri­ble, racist mail­er that dis­gust­ing­ly por­trayed Per­ry as a pup­pet of Coun­cilmem­ber Zahi­lay.

To Lam­bert’s dis­may, the attack back­fired and result­ed in her cam­paign los­ing the sup­port of many endorsers and donors. It also had the effect of por­tray­ing her to the dis­tric­t’s most­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers as a Trump Republican.

After repeat­ed­ly defend­ing the mail­er, Lam­bert abrupt­ly changed course and sev­ered ties with her con­sul­tant. But by that point, her reelec­tion prospects had been fatal­ly wound­ed. Her cred­i­bil­i­ty as an elect­ed offi­cial was also severe­ly dam­aged. With­in days, the King Coun­ty Coun­cil unan­i­mous­ly vot­ed to remove her from all com­mit­tee chair and vice chair positions.

Now the vot­ers have removed Lam­bert from office. Lam­bert will have a few more weeks left to wrap up her work on the Coun­cil and then Coun­cilmem­ber-elect Per­ry will take over as the dis­tric­t’s new representative.

NPI thanks Coun­cilmem­ber Lam­bert for her many years of pub­lic ser­vice. We wish her the best in her next chap­ter, and hope to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to team up on caus­es like find­ing fund­ing for our rur­al roads.

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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