NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

Sarah Perry easily defeating Kathy Lambert in hard fought King County Council race

Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Sarah Per­ry appears to have suc­ceed­ed in her cam­paign to bring new pro­gres­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tion to King Coun­ty’s 3rd Coun­ty Coun­cil Dis­trict. While many bal­lots still remain to be count­ed, ini­tial returns from King Coun­ty Elec­tions tonight have Per­ry eleven points ahead of incum­bent Repub­li­can Kathy Lam­bert. Per­ry cur­rent­ly has 55.12% of the vote to Lam­bert’s 44.50%, which is a gap that is unlike­ly to be over­come in the late ballots.

Lam­bert is one of the longest serv­ing mem­bers of the King Coun­ty Coun­cil and has been in office since the days when it was a thir­teen-mem­ber par­ti­san body as opposed to a nine-mem­ber “non­par­ti­san” body. She has pre­vi­ous­ly been reelect­ed sev­er­al times with only token oppo­si­tion, or no oppo­si­tion at all.

But this year was different.

This year, Lam­bert drew a strong Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent from the get-go in Per­ry, who became polit­i­cal­ly active dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cycle and sub­se­quent­ly worked to flip the exur­ban 5th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict blue in 2018 as an activist.

Sarah Perry, candidate for King County Council

King Coun­ty Coun­cil hope­ful Sarah Per­ry is an expe­ri­enced non­prof­it leader and Demo­c­ra­t­ic orga­niz­er (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Per­ry and fel­low Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Joe Cohen col­lec­tive­ly net­ted about 59% of the vote in the August Top Two elec­tion, while Lam­bert received only 40%, demon­strat­ing vot­ers’ inter­est in elect­ing new rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the district.

Per­ry won Lam­bert’s home precinct in Red­mond and moved clos­er to Lam­bert in the late bal­lots back in August. (If that dynam­ic repeats this month, Per­ry could end up with an even wider lead over Lam­bert than she has now.)

Lam­bert’s response to the Top Two results was to turn to a slimy con­sul­tant, 1892 LLC, that con­coct­ed a set of dis­gust­ing, false attacks aimed at dis­cred­it­ing Perry.

One of those dis­gust­ing attacks became the basis for a racist mail­er trash­ing Lam­bert’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­league Gir­may Zahi­lay that was wide­ly and loud­ly con­demned. After ini­tial­ly refus­ing to apol­o­gize and admit wrong­do­ing, Lam­bert rapid­ly began los­ing sup­port. The Seat­tle Times edi­to­r­i­al board with­drew its endorse­ment of her, as did the Real­tors and oth­er busi­ness groups. The Seat­tle Mariners, mean­while, con­tributed $1,000 to Sarah Per­ry’s campaign.

After watch­ing those endorse­ments dis­ap­pear, Lam­bert cut ties with 1892 LLC and declared on Face­book that she need­ed to apol­o­gize to Zahi­lay. Zahi­lay under­stand­ably deemed her state­ment a non-apol­o­gy and refused to accept it.

The mail­er iron­i­cal­ly had the effect of inform­ing East­side vot­ers (most of whom iden­ti­fy as Democ­rats) that Lam­bert was a Repub­li­can — and not the Dan Evans kind, but the con­tem­po­rary Don­ald Trump wor­ship­ing kind.

It was seem­ing­ly the final, fatal blow for Lam­bert’s already-trou­bled campaign.

The 3rd used to be one of the most Repub­li­can places in King Coun­ty. But as the coun­ty has grown and changed, the dis­trict has become Demo­c­ra­t­ic turf. It vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly for Pres­i­dent Joe Biden last year and its inhab­i­tants strong­ly sup­port the poli­cies and admin­is­tra­tion of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

The 3rd’s polit­i­cal meta­mor­pho­sis mir­rors that of the neigh­bor­ing 6th, which dumped Repub­li­can incum­bent Jane Hague six years ago for Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci. (Bal­duc­ci is now the Chair of the Council.)

The 6th was a bat­tle­ground for all of one elec­tion cycle. Like oth­er East­side dis­tricts, such as the 45th and 5th Leg­isla­tive Dis­tricts, once it flipped, it stayed blue. The dis­trict is now con­sid­ered safe Demo­c­ra­t­ic by polit­i­cal observers.

Bal­duc­ci had no trou­ble hold­ing the 6th in 2019; even Repub­li­cans like Louise Miller declared their sup­port for her reelec­tion campaign.

The same will prob­a­bly be true of the 3rd in what­ev­er form it takes after the lines of the coun­ty’s nine coun­cil dis­tricts get redrawn at the end of this year.

Hav­ing appar­ent­ly antic­i­pat­ed win­ning reelec­tion this year, Lam­bert a few months ago self­ish­ly urged the King Coun­ty Redis­trict­ing Com­mis­sion to redraw the 3rd to exclude Issaquah (which is where Per­ry cur­rent­ly resides).

How­ev­er, based on tonight’s results, Lam­bert no longer has to wor­ry about her cred­i­bil­i­ty as an elect­ed offi­cial or reelec­tion prospects for 2023. In a few weeks, she’ll be leav­ing office and Per­ry will take her place as the first new rep­re­sen­ta­tive cho­sen by the vot­ers of the 3rd Coun­ty Coun­cil Dis­trict in over two decades.

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