By Scott Hamilton
Oct. 13, 2021: In the Era of Trump, it seems politicians have trouble doing the right thing.
Last week, King County Council Member Kathy Lambert flunked spectacularly.
The Seattle Times outlined the issues here. In a nutshell, Lambert’s reelection committee and consultant produced a campaign flier that has clear racist overtones and other incendiary charges that have nothing to do with the County Council, its members or the local issues.
Lambert, who is running for a fifth 4-year term, initially refused to denounce the mailer. Lambert’s actions—and inactions—cost her the endorsement for reelection by The Seattle Times. Only after losing the endorsement, and that of some corporations and some of those who endorsed her, did Lambert reverse course and denounce the mailer. She apologized and fired her election consultant.
The image below, via the Seattle Times, photoshopped Zahilay to be dressed like Louis Farrakhan, a divisive figure in the civil rights movement. Zahilay is the only black on the county council. His record on “defunding” police is misstated in the mailer.
The buck stops with Lambert
It was too little, too late.
This was not some independent political action committee over which candidates legally cannot control or coordinate with. This was her own election committee. The buck stops with Lambert. The mailer should never have been approved by her. She had no business defending it. She was too late in denouncing it.
The backlash was a firestorm. Some elected officials who remained neutral endorsed her opponent, Sarah Perry. Some elected officials withdrew their endorsement.
Sammamish Mayor Karen Moran is running for reelection. She’s known Lambert for 25 years. She’s endorsed her in every election, including this one. Moran declined to comment.
Another current Sammamish official who endorsed Lambert is Stan Gunno. He is on the Human Services Commission (his term ends in 2024). Human Services deals with race issues. Gunno did not respond to a request whether he would maintain or withdraw his endorsement.
Several former Sammamish city council members also endorsed Lambert. Only one, former Mayor Don Gerend, remains active in city affairs. Gerend told Sammamish Comment he will not withdraw his endorsement.
“I haven’t seen the campaign piece, but I have seen how over-zealous election committees and PACs can go too far in these pieces and this was apparently an example of that,” Gerend wrote in an email. “I hear that Kathy apologized for it and should have not approved it in the first place. It is sad, in my opinion, that what is supposed to now be a non-partisan County Council still is tied so strongly to the parties. Kathy’s outstanding political career, including representing the residents of a sprawling King County District, has been most impressive and should not be dismissed because of an ill-conceived campaign piece. Kathy has, over the years, worked harder for her constituents than any other public official that I know. I do not withdraw my endorsement of Kathy because I know that she is not racist.”
Four years ago
When Lambert ran for her fourth County Council term four years ago, Sammamish Comment endorsed her opponent, John Murphy. He lost (though Lambert only won 52% of the vote in Sammamish, a poor showing for an incumbent). She won 57% of the vote district wide.
One of the reasons The Comment didn’t endorse Lambert was that she didn’t answer an issues questionnaire. Lambert displayed an arrogance of officials repeatedly reelected and who, apparently, no longer feel accountable to their constituents.
The Era of Trump, which, sad to say, continues today, is based on racism (and on the Big Lie about the 2020 election results). There has always been an undercurrent of racism in the US. Trump made it acceptable with White Supremacists and others to come into the open. Unfortunately, only a few Republicans choose to stand up against this. The vast, vast majority stand silent.
For Lambert, a Republican, to engage in overtly racist campaigning—and initially double down on it—speaks volumes. Whether it can be chalked up to simply making a dumb political move is debatable (highly debatable). Flirting with racism can’t be written off as youthful indiscretion, as some others might do. The most charitable explanation is Lambert is tone deaf.
Either way, she flunked doing the right thing. She never should have approved the mailer and she shouldn’t have doubled down on it. Only after the matter blew up did she act.