King County councilmembers denounce colleague’s ‘racist’ campaign mailer

Oct 7, 2021, 11:04 AM
King County Kathy Lambert, campaign mailer...
King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert. (King County Council, Facebook)
(King County Council, Facebook)

King County councilmembers spoke out this week against a campaign mailer from one of their colleagues, which they say played to racist tropes.

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The mailer was sent out by Republican County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, displaying Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vice President Kamala Harris, Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay holding marionette strings above council candidate Sarah Perry, bearing the message: “Sarah Perry would be a Socialist Puppet on the Eastside pushing their agenda.”

It further claims that Perry is “backed by Seattle socialist leader Girmay Zahilay, who wants to defund the police.”

Perry — a Democrat who previously worked in fundraising at Seattle University — garnered 36% of the vote in the August primary election, trailing close behind Lambert at 40%. While Lambert has served on the council for two decades, this marks her first prominent campaign challenger in years, with Democratic candidates combining for 59% of the vote in the primary.

Commenting on Lambert’s mailer on Twitter, Zahilay questioned “why (Lambert) singled out and used her only Black colleague’s face for fear mongering on the East Side.”

“Painting the Black elected official with a foreign-sounding name as an enemy to suburban and rural values is nothing new,” he added. “But we have to push back against this because it diminishes our ability to work together to deliver real results for people struggling all over King County.”

The five other Democrats on the county council later joined with Zahilay to issue a joint statement, further denouncing Lambert’s message as “a racist piece of political mail.”

“It has no place in any public or private discourse here in King County,” the statement reads. “Planning, authorizing and mailing a communication like this betrays ignorance at best, deep seated racism at worst.”

Responding to that criticism, Lambert argued that Zahilay “is the only socialist on the county council and Sarah [Perry] has chosen to campaign with him.”

“They share policies that will bring more homelessness and crime to the Eastside,” she continued. “Sarah is the person campaigning with a socialist. They know the voters don’t want socialism on the Eastside which is why they are making these outrageous statements.”

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King County councilmembers denounce colleague’s ‘racist’ campaign mailer