State Watch

Seattle-area lawmakers say colleague’s campaign flyer is racist, ‘horrifying’

A campaign mailer sent out by a Washington county council member up for reelection this week has sparked a wave of outrage in the county’s legislative body, with members condemning it as “racist” and “xenophobic.”

As The Seattle Times reported, incumbent King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert’s campaign sent out a mailer depicting her opponent, Sarah Perry, as a marionette, or “socialist puppet,” being controlled by Vice President Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), King County Council member Girmay Zahilay and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant.

Zahilay, Sawant and Harris are all people of color and Sanders is white and Jewish. Lambert is white. Zahilay and three other county council members have endorsed Perry, but he is the only person of color on the council.

Speaking to the Times, Zahilay said he originally thought the mailer had been created by an outside group and asked Lambert to condemn it. Upon finding out that her campaign had created it, Zahilay said he was “livid.”

“I wonder why she singled out and used her only Black colleague’s face for fear mongering on the East Side,” said Zahilay. “it’s only my face in a big red bow tie and my name in red boogie man letters.”

Zahilay stated that despite what the mailer implied, he is not in fact a socialist.

“Painting the Black elected official with a foreign-sounding name as an enemy to suburban and rural values is nothing new,” he added.  “In my 2 years on the Council the number of racist and xenophobic messages, and even threats, I get weekly has been alarming. It’s sad that my own colleague would fuel these attacks for cheap political points in a race that I’m not even in.”

On Twitter, Perry spoke out against the campaign material, writing, “My opponent is currently engaged in a shocking smear campaign against me, choosing fear mongering and racist tropes over substance. Her conduct is not surprising, but still disappointing nonetheless. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

In a joint statement, the six Democrat council members decried Lambert’s mailer.

“Put simply, this is a racist piece of political mail. It has no place in any public or private discourse here in King County. Planning, authorizing and mailing a communication like this betrays ignorance at best, deep seated racism at worst,” they wrote.

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) also condemned the campaign material.

“Racism has no place in our communities or in our politics. There are serious issues at stake in this election and we should be debating policy differences, not using divisive hate speech and fear mongering,” she tweeted.

In a statement to the Times, Lambert said, “Girmay is the only socialist on the county council and Sarah has chosen to campaign with him. They share policies that will bring more homelessness and crime to the Eastside. 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.”

The Hill has reached out to Lambert for further comment.

Tags Bernie Sanders King County, Washington Kshama Sawant Suzan DelBene

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