Metropolitan King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert has earned previous Seattle Times endorsements for her diligent attention to the often unglamorous details of county governance.
But elected officials must also be willing to take responsibility for mistakes, grow and lead by example. In her recent actions, Lambert has failed this basic test. District 3 voters should deny her another term.
Lambert showed, at minimum, a serious lack of judgment in deciding to greenlight offensive and inaccurate campaign literature depicting her opponent, business owner Sarah Perry, as an “anti-police puppet” controlled by “Seattle socialist leader” King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay. Instead of publicly apologizing, Lambert doubled down on the mistake by refusing a Seattle Times reporter’s request for an interview Wednesday about the troubling mailer. The mocked-up photograph included Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders — none of whom, it should go without saying, has an ounce of relevance to a county council race.
Even after a majority of Lambert’s county council colleagues publicly denounced the mailer as racist, she showed a disturbing lack of contrition in an editorial board interview Thursday. It’s one thing to suggest that an opponent might be controlled by special interests. But Lambert did not seem even to comprehend that her ad suggested something more sinister. It lined up the county’s only Black council member, two elected women of color and a Jewish U.S. senator from the other side of the continent.
That message was not lost on Zahilay, who responded that he’s not a socialist, adding, “I wondered why she singled out and used only her Black colleague’s face for fearmongering on the East Side?”
“It’s been traumatic for me that this has — in my mind — been seen as racist,” she told editorial board members. She said she followed the advice of a campaign consultant. She said her Democratic council colleagues have been subjected to tremendous political pressure to take sides in the nonpartisan election, but Lambert lost her standing to complain about partisanship when she OKed this scurrilous attack.
Perry will have to work hard to build expertise on issues, like waste management and rural roads, that rarely come up on the campaign trail. Voters should give her the chance. Once elected, Perry should eschew party politics, remembering that the county council is rightly nonpartisan.