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King County Council strips leadership roles from Kathy Lambert after campaign flyer controversy

The council voted to remove Councilmember Kathy Lambert from leadership roles after a campaign flyer she sent to her constituents was considered racist by some.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — The King County Council voted Tuesday to remove Councilmember Kathy Lambert from leadership roles after fallout from a controversial flyer she sent to her constituents earlier this month that was deemed racist. 

The council voted 9-0 to approve the motion, which was a late addition to the council's agenda by Council Chair Claudia Balducci. The motion removes Lambert from leadership positions within the council, and also removes her from all assignments where she represents the council on external boards and committees, according to a statement from the council. Lambert had been serving on the King County Flood Control District board.

Lambert formally requested to resign during the council meeting from her chair and vice chairmanships just before the council voted on the motion.

“The mailer and subsequent statements have undermined our ability to work with each other, our staff’s confidence in us as leaders, and our reputation and relationships with outside organizations and agencies. Based on those impacts, it was imperative that we take concrete action quickly,” Balducci said in a statement.

During Tuesday's council meeting, Lambert said the motion was "rushed through in an unprecedented way" and it was "clearly not about race, but about political opportunity to damage" her re-election campaign. 

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"I don’t believe that one insensitive item should take away a person’s reputation and I hope that for everybody who's in politics that you understand what’s going on," Lambert said during Tuesday's meeting. 

It has been a turbulent few weeks for Lambert, who has served on the King County Council for 20 years. She received backlash for a political flyer that depicted her political opponent Sarah Perry as a "socialist puppet" controlled by "Seattle socialist leader" Councilmember Girmay Zahilay. 

The flyers were sent to voters in District 3, which covers northeastern King County, including Issaquah, Sammamish and North Bend.  

Credit: KING
A campaign mailer from King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert targets opponent Sarah Perry and has drawn criticism.

Lambert said the flyers were designed to highlight the difference between her and her opponent. But Zahilay argued others on the county council besides him have endorsed Perry and believes his photo was included because of his race.

In a formal apology on Friday, Lambert said the message was "certainly not what was intended" and that she terminated her consultant's contract. 

"I need to apologize for the harm that the flyer has caused to Councilmember Zahilay, my colleagues, the public I have long worked for and appreciate and to my family. My dedication and heart are not to hurt, but to serve," Lambert said in a statement.

Zahilay told KING 5 on Friday he does not accept Lambert's apology because she only made it after losing endorsements. 

On Tuesday, Balducci said there has been a request to investigate whether Lambert's flyer violated the council's harassment policy, however, it's unclear when or if that investigation would happen.