Kathy Lambert’s two decades on the King County Council could be coming to a close after she trailed challenger Sarah Perry 55.1% to 44.5% in her reelection bid on Tuesday night.
All four of the other Council incumbents up for reelection — Rod Dembowski, Reagan Dunn, Dave Upthegrove and Pete von Reichbauer — cruised to victory over their challengers.
The early results portend a slight shift to the left for the nonpartisan County Council: Lambert was one of three members of the conservative minority on the nine-member council. If Tuesday night’s results hold, the Council’s liberal majority could increase from 6-3 to 7-2.
Lambert’s campaign was upended last month when a political mailer she sent out was widely condemned as racist, including by a majority of her colleagues on the council. She initially defended the mailer, made by a national Republican consulting firm, before apologizing and being stripped of her committee chairmanships as her endorsers fled.
Lambert has rarely drawn serious challengers since first winning her seat in 2001, but this year she was out-fundraised by Perry, a former executive at Seattle University and other local nonprofits.
Perry campaigned heavily on transportation and the environment, saying she’d work to improve public transit in the largely suburban and rural Council District 3, which stretches from Redmond and Sammamish to the Cascades.
In an election night party that included speeches by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, Perry thanked her supporters and sounded hopeful about the results.
“There is nothing definitive here,” she said. “We’re just very, very glad for the outcome right now. We want to make sure every vote is counted. But we’re so happy and excited for this.”
Lambert has long focused on unglamorous issues, including an unsuccessful 15-year odyssey to try to get the county to replace its lone landfill with a trash-to-energy incinerator.
In an interview, Lambert said she was waiting to see what happens as more ballots are counted in the coming days. Some supporters had told her they had just returned their ballots on election day, she added.
“But the important thing is, either way, I’ve had a 27-year run representing the people of my districts,” said Lambert, referring to her tenure on both the Council and in the Legislature. “We have a legacy of serving the people.”
Upthegrove earned a third term, topping Shukri Olow, an organizer, in District 5, covering SeaTac, Des Moines and Kent. Upthegrove was leading Olow 68% to 30.5%.
Both candidates campaigned on their experience: For Upthegrove, his legislative tenure, including eight years on the County Council and 10 years in the state House, and for Olow, her experience as an immigrant, refugee and mother.
And both candidates raised a nearly identical amount, about $245,000.
Upthegrove said he’d like to find more locations in the district, which includes Renton, Kent and Des Moines, for permanent supportive housing facilities, and also increase funding to reduce a backlog in the courts and the prosecutor’s office.
In a statement Tuesday night on his Facebook page, Upthegrove thanked voters “for your strong vote of confidence.”
“I am so proud of how we came together as a community to advance a shared vision of fairness and justice and to embrace a sensible agenda of getting homeless individuals off the street and into housing, improving public safety, and getting our economy moving again,” he wrote.
“We need a ‘coalition of the reasonable’ willing to find common ground to solve these big challenges — and tonight we demonstrated this is possible.”
Olow said she wants to extend the emergency COVID-19 rental assistance beyond the end of the pandemic and proposes building 37,000 units of affordable housing.
Dunn earned a fifth term, beating Renton City Councilmember Kim-Khanh Van in the race for District 9, which covers the southeast corner of the county, from Newcastle through Enumclaw. Dunn led Van 63% to 36% in Tuesday’s vote counts.
Both District 9 and Lambert’s District 3 have traditionally leaned Republican in local elections, but have been shifting Democratic in recent years.
Dunn campaigned on bringing a “suburban and rural perspective” and increasing funding for law enforcement, while Van worked to make it clear she was the Democrat in the race and said she would focus on ensuring an equitable recovery from the pandemic.
Dunn nearly doubled her total in fundraising, raising about $330,000, to Van’s $170,000.
In a statement, Dunn said he was “grateful to the voters for their strong support tonight.
“It’s clear that the Democrat message of defunding the police and still higher taxes to support Seattle’s failed homelessness policies are not resonating well with the electorate,” Dunn added in prepared remarks.
Von Reichbauer, who’s been in elected office for nearly half a century, earned an eighth term representing South King County’s District 7, beating first-time candidate Dominique Torgerson. Von Reichbauer led 68.5% to 31% in Tuesday’s ballots.
Torgerson, who raised no money for her campaign, said she was motivated to run by a distrust of government and also said she would focus on overhauling the county permitting department, which oversees building, land use and business documents in unincorporated areas of the county.
Von Reichbauer said he would continue to focus on constituent services — being responsive to people who may have no other access to government — and on ensuring light rail arrives to Federal Way on time in 2024.
Dembowski easily earned a third term in the North King County District covering Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and Bothell. He led first-time candidate Sally Caverzan 82% to 17%.
Caverzan, who raised no money for her campaign, pushed for the creation of a county conservation corps that would pay people for environmental projects.
Dembowski said his top priorities will be choosing a new sheriff and looking for law enforcement reforms, executing the county’s homelessness response with the newly functioning Regional Homeless Authority and passing a climate bond.