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.
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.