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Discrimination deep dive: Exposing Councilmember Lambert's hateful history

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King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert — Image courtesy of Seattle Channel
King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert — Image courtesy of Seattle Channel

On Oct. 6 King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert released a racist reelection campaign mailer targeting her opponent in the upcoming Nov. 2 election, Sarah Perry, as well as the only Black King County Councilmember, Girmay Zahilay.

On the campaign mailer, Perry's head was photoshopped onto a puppet's body, with Councilmember Zahilay holding the strings, accompanied by the words "Sarah Perry would be a socialist puppet on the Eastside pushing their agenda" and "Sarah Perry is backed by Seattle socialist leader Girmay Zahilay, who wants to defund the police."

Also pictured in the mailer are Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Vice President Kamala Harris — both women of color — in addition to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a white Jewish male.

Shortly after the mailer went viral, members of the King County Council quickly spoke out and denounced it as racist. It did not take long before Lambert's endorsers, such as the Seattle Times, the Seattle Mariners, and the Washington Association of Realtors revoked their endorsements. The Mariners, who donated $500 to Lambert's campaign, now plan to donate $1,000 to Perry's.

Lambert went live on KING-5 with Councilmember Zahilay and explained that the reelection campaign mailer could not be racist because "I do a lot of work in Africa, so if I had something against him [Zahilay] because of his color, I wouldn't be doing the work I do in Africa."

On Oct. 12 the Metropolitan King County Council — including Lambert — voted to strip her of all internal and external committee assignments and to reassign the vacancies. As a result, Lambert was removed as chair of the Community Health and Housing Services committee. The vacancies were then assigned to the Law and Justice committee, which Councilmember Zahilay chairs.

Photo courtesy of King County Council  

Kathy Lambert was born in Redmond and graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in elementary and business education. Lambert is a former teacher and wrote a biography for young adults called Martin Luther King Jr., which was published in 1992.

In 2005 King County was officially named after the civil rights activist. In a newsletter Lambert sent to her district, she wrote, "We are the only county in the state that has had its name changed under state law. I wish there had been more discussion of this matter in King County prior to the State Legislature changing our county's name."

Lambert currently serves as a King County Councilmember for District 3, the largest of the nine districts. It includes Duvall, Fall City, North Bend, and Snoqualmie. Lambert has been on the council since 2002, and she is a Republican.

Prior to serving on the King County Council, Lambert was a state representative from the 45th District for seven years.

Photo courtesy of Citizens to Re-Elect Kathy Lambert  

Victim blaming
Lambert is a survivor of domestic violence. She met her first husband when she was 18 years old and was then frequently covered in bruises and black eyes. Lambert thought staying with her partner would protect her stepchildren from their father, but the violence continued to spiral, and she eventually found a way out.

Lambert's history of domestic violence would make one think she supports and uplifts fellow survivors, yet her words and actions say otherwise.

Former Republican state Sen. Joe Fain — who represented the 47th District from 2011 to 2019 — was accused of rape in 2018 by a woman named Candace Faber, who spoke out about an incident that took place in 2007: Faber and Fain went out drinking and dancing on the night Faber graduated with a master's degree from Georgetown University. At the end of the night, Fain drunkenly demanded that Faber walk back to his hotel room, where he raped her.

In an audio interview with KUOW, Lambert stated that investigators should look into how many rape allegations Faber had made.

"I tell my daughters, you don't go to a hotel room with a man who's been drinking. You don't do that," said Lambert in the interview. "So, I think it's a two-way street, where we need to both sides be responsible for our behaviors. She did say in one thing that they were kissing very intently beforehand, so you know maybe our investigation needs to be both ways."

Lambert's outspoken victim-blaming led to Fain himself texting the Seattle Times to clear things up.

"I strongly disagree with the connotation of Councilmember Lambert's previous comments and have told her as much. While I absolutely did not do what has been alleged, I believe that those who come forward should be listened to and treated with respect, including Ms. Faber."

Since the rape allegations, which Fain has denied, there has been no formal criminal investigation. After he lost the election that year, the state Senate suspended plans for an independent investigation.

"This is the tip of the 20-year iceberg"
Tom Rasmussen is a retired member of the Seattle City Council who served from 2004 until 2015. Rasmussen mentioned how Lambert has a 20-year track record that shows what she truly stands for.

"I think that time has caught up with her. She's living in the past. She reflects the thinking and prejudices that have prevailed for 20 years... I think the community has evolved and changed, and she has not," said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen described Lambert's recent campaign mailer as a lack of awareness of the harm it causes. He thought her initial reactions were not apologetic, until she realized there were consequences to her actions.

"We know that politicians do have inconsistent records," said Rasmussen, who mentioned that politicians change and evolve as they become more aware of issues.

"It's her votes that matter, and she has rarely ever voted for legislation prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation," said Rasmussen.

On March 27, 2006, an ordinance was brought to the King County Council, amending the county's definition of sexual orientation to include protection for those whose gender identities differ from their assigned sex at birth. Kathy Lambert voted no, but the ordinance passed by a vote of 5-4.

Ordinance 16204, passed on July 14, 2008, proposed amending Section 840 of King County's Charter, which prohibited discrimination based on disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, color, and national origin. Eight councilmembers voted yes, but Councilmember Lambert was excused. Rasmussen mentioned that an excusal from a vote means that a councilmember was not present, sometimes because they do not want to vote on a difficult issue.

Ordinance 19047 was introduced to the Metropolitan King County Council in November of 2019. Its purpose was to establish a King County human and civil rights commission to advise the King County Executive and Council, as well to raise community awareness about equity and social justice in the county. Two members of the council voted no , including Lambert, but the ordinance passed 6-2 that December.

At the end of 2020, Kathy Lambert voted against two measures that were passed by the council: to make Juneteenth and Indigenous People's Day paid holidays. Her reasoning was that she thought the council should spend money on other things.

"Well, I would say I support African people all over the world, and I have many people in my community that are African Americans, and they are my friends, and we work together," said Lambert regarding her vote.

On Oct. 15, according to an email from Perry's campaign, a political action committee called "the Concerned Taxpayers of Washington State" hired Stampede America, "a Florida-based GOP consultant and canvassing shop" to spread misinformation about Perry's campaign in the final weeks leading up to the election. According to the email, Stampede America has previously been involved with voter intimidation tactics and its board includes Trump's former foreign policy advisor, Carter Page, who was investigated by the FBI for his contacts with Russia.

If reelected, said Rasmussen, Lambert may be indebted to such conservative groups.

"I'm encouraging everyone who votes in her district to vote for her opponent," Rasmussen said, because "she votes on legislation that affects all of us."