Taking on a 20-year incumbent is no small task, but Sarah Perry believes she is up for the task.
Perry’s opponent, Kathy Lambert, has been the King County District 3 council member since 2001, seven years before voters passed an amendment to change all elected offices in the county to nonpartisan positions.
“But there’s muscle memory,” Perry, a Democrat, said in an interview with the Sammamish Independent. “And it’s no secret that Kathy is a very, very strong Republican.”
District 3, which stretches from Woodinville to Issaquah and covers most of east King County, has been shifting in the past two decades from red to blue. The district voted 68% for Joe Biden, and has elected other Democrats to office with over 60% of the vote. In the August primary election, voters gave Lambert only 40% of the vote, while 59% went for the two Democratic candidates.
That is why Perry, 57, is running for the District 3 seat: She believes that she can represent the values of the district better than Lambert can.
Outside of the difference in party identification, Perry disagrees with the way in which Lambert sees the diverse groups that live within King County.
“You don’t have to go very far to look at comments about women, comments about people of color, comments about people who don’t have the same opportunities available to them,” Perry said of Lambert. “It’s not an inclusive vision.”
Perry believes Lambert is detached from the population she represents, adding that there are entire areas in the district in which people have never met the council member. She contrasts that with her own actions, stating that she is out knocking on doors every day.
More than that, Perry disapproves of what she sees as Lambert’s inability to fight for her district.
“I think it’s maybe been a dozen years since Kathy Lambert has been able to actually get something through the council,” Perry said. “We need a fighter for our district, and we just simply don’t have one.”
Perry vows that she will not give up on the issues the community cares about. She also believes that the connections she already has with the current council members, as well as other government officials and community leaders, will help.
A professional in nonprofit and public sectors for the past thirty years, Perry has helped build transitional housing as executive director of Eastside Housing, worked with various Christian and interfaith communities as senior director of University Initiatives at Seattle University, and raised funds for nonprofits with Social Venture Partners International. More recently, she became involved in organizing voters to elect Democratic candidates.
Perry said that no matter where she is, she has always been a community-coalition builder, working to engage people to solve issues in their own communities.
“In ’16, ’17, ’18, ’19, ’20, folks continued to ask me when I was going to run, and they asked me specifically if I would run for this position, because of my community engagement and coalition-building,” Perry said.
To ensure that all voices in the community are represented at the decision-making table, Perry wants to bring together a diverse group of residents to form a district community council. She said she would tap into different constituent groups, including businesses, educators, labor unions, environmentalists and law enforcement to fill this council, and that they will help her review current policies for relevancy and advise her on new decisions.
As for priorities, Perry said that improving transit is near the top of her list.
The new light rail extension may be coming to the Eastside, but it will not be taken full advantage of without parking options and other connections from homes to stations, said Perry. She also wants bus schedules and routes that will better connect the district both internally, as well as with the rest of the county — perhaps made possible with the extra buses that are no longer running the routes taken over by the light rail system.
Improving transit will allow people to get to places efficiently and effectively, Perry said, as well as help King County meet its climate goals.
“We’ve got five forests, four watersheds, one-third of all unincorporated roads, all in this district. We have so much green to protect, and a responsibility to do that, so that we can offset the greenhouse gases of the rest of the eight districts,” said Perry.
Perry believes that protecting the Sammamish Valley from urban sprawl is vital. Zoning laws that prevent the valley from being overdeveloped should be upheld when violated, and not changed so easily. If those laws conflict with development needs, community conversations need to be had about how we should be balancing development with rural preservation.
Perry also thinks the success of small businesses is vital to the livelihood of east King communities. As the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues, she wants to spotlight local businesses, streamline regulations and permitting, and improve the county government’s support for small businesses.
Finally, COVID-19 has impressed upon her the importance of civic engagement, especially after seeing the increase in participation at civic meetings because of easier access to online meetings.
“I find that very exciting,” Perry said. “And it feels, to me, that we need to increase civic engagement, because I think, the more involved we are, the better off our society will be.”
The Sammamish Independent has invited Kathy Lambert to an interview, and we are still waiting for her to confirm a time.