King County Council Majority Denounces Member Kathy Lambert’s Campaign Message as Racist
The usually distinguished King Metropolitan County Council, where members shy away from self-criticism, erupted Wednesday over a political letter from council member Kathy Lambert that a majority of her colleagues denounced as racist.
Lambert, a 20-year-old incumbent, faces a tough re-election challenge this year in District 3 representing northeast King County, having rarely drawn serious naysayers over the past two decades.
Lambert won the August primary, but with just 40% of the vote. In the general election, she faces Sarah Perry, a former executive at Seattle University and other local nonprofits, who won 36% of the vote in August.
County council races are technically non-partisan, but Perry and third Joe Cohen are Democrats, while Lambert previously served as Republican. Together, the two Democrats secured nearly 60 percent of the primary vote, indicating a clear path for Perry to follow.
Lambert’s new mail portrays Perry as a puppet and calls him a “socialist puppet”. Holding the strings of the puppet, board member Girmay Zahilay, who is joined by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, Vice President Kamala Harris and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Zahilay, Sawant, and Harris are all people of color; Sanders is white and Jewish. Lambert is white.
Zahilay supported Perry, as did at least three other county council members. But Zahilay, the only person of color on the county council, is the only one pictured or mentioned on the ad.
Zahilay said he first saw the mail on Tuesday night and assumed it was the work of an outside group. He said he texted Lambert and asked him to sentence him. Later, when he learned it was directly from Lambert’s campaign, he said he was “livid” and told her it was offensive and inappropriate.
“I wonder why she chose and used the face of her only black colleague to spread fear on the East Side,” Zahilay wrote in response to the mail.
Zahilay wrote that he was only one of six board members who backed Perry, but “it’s just my face with a big red bow tie and my name in red boogie man letters.”
He said the pinstripe suit and the red bow tie he wore in the mail had both been retouched in a photo of him.
He added that he is not, as the sender claims, a socialist.
“Painting the Chosen One black with a foreign sounding name like an enemy of suburban and rural values is nothing new,” Zahilay wrote. “During my 2 years on the Council, the number of racist and xenophobic messages, and even threats, that I receive every week has been alarming. It’s sad that my own colleague is fueling these attacks for cheap political points in a race I’m not even in. “
Lambert declined an interview request.
In an emailed statement, she said: “Girmay is the only socialist in the county council and Sarah has chosen to campaign with him. They share policies that will bring more homelessness and crime to the Eastside. Sarah is the person who campaigns with a socialist. They know that voters don’t want socialism in the East, which is why they are making these outrageous statements.
Republicans from Statewide and Eastside have long tried to tie Democrats to Seattle politics, warning of radical policies and chaos on the streets. But the imagery in Lambert’s mailer, referring to an anti-Semitic “puppet master” trope about the secret control of wealth and power dating back centuries, seemed blatant to many.
Perry called the shipper “horrible”.
“This racist, anti-Semitic sexism has no place here,” she said. “That hyperpartisan tone is not in line with our Eastside values, it’s a national Trump kind of thing.”
The six Democratic county council members issued a joint statement calling on Lambert to apologize.
“Simply put, this is racist political mail. It has no place in any public or private discourse here in King County. Planning, authorizing and sending communication like this betrays ignorance at best, deep-rooted racism at worst, ”wrote board members Claudia Balducci, Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Joe McDermott, Dave Upthegrove and Zahilay in the press release.
“It demonstrates a lack of respect for the fundamental duty that the residents of King County give to all of their elected officials – the duty to respect and serve all who reside in King County, regardless of race or origin. ethnic, ”they wrote.
County Director Dow Constantine wrote: “This kind of hyper-partisan dog whistle attack has no place in a welcoming county.