Tell me without telling me youre running to unseat a Republican on the Eastside
Tell me without telling me you're running to unseat a Republican on the Eastside Courtesy of the Campaigns

The fact that Republican King County Councilmember (and children's book author) Kathy Lambert represents any group of people in any capacity at all is wild, but the fact that she represents King County District 3 is flatly ridiculous.

Her district—which represents Redmond, Sammamish, Issaquah, and large swaths of unincorporated areas in the northeast—has been turning a bluer shade of purple over the years thanks to changing demographics and shifting suburban sensibilities.

In the 2020 presidential primary, more people here voted for Bernie Sanders than for Donald Trump. In the general, Joe Biden beat Trump by nearly 60,000 votes. Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman only won the district by 1,500 votes, and Tim Eyman's transit-killing initiative failed by over 3,000 votes.

Look at all that Lambert land out east.
Look at all that Lambert land out east.

And yet the person who speaks for this district praised Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos, voted against storing guns safely, voted against forcing anti-abortion centers to stop misrepresenting themselves, voted for taking over the county's independent arts authority apparently because the board didn't pick her friend, voted against making Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples Day a holiday, proposed public defenders for landlords during eviction proceedings, and blamed the victim who accused former Republican state Senator Joe Fain of raping her in 2007. Fain denied the allegation. Does Lambert think #MeToo has gone too far? Hell, "When I was younger, slapping a woman on the butt was a compliment," she told KUOW.

Lambert walloped the last Democrat who challenged her—a Navy veteran named John Murphy—but, given the district's recent voting patterns, it seems like a strong pro-transit Democratic candidate could win out there, adding at least one more liberal to the council's 6-3 majority.

Joe Cohen and Sarah Perry are the two Democrats who believe they can boot Lambert and more accurately represent the Eastside on the council.

Perry has worked as a fundraiser in the nonprofit world for decades, and she directed Eastside Housing (now called Springboard Alliance) in Redmond.

She's lived in Issaquah for over 20 years with her husband, Washington state Rep. Bill Ramos. When Ramos ran for that seat, organizers credited part of his victory to her organizing prowess. The Democrats named her "Western WA Organizer of the Year" in 2017, and the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington recognized her as a "campaign heroine" the following year.

Local politicians have apparently taken notice, too. She's picked up the lion’s share of endorsements, including Congressman Adam Smith, four statewide executives, several of the district’s senators and state House representatives, King County Executive Dow Constantine, the King County Democrats, and a bunch of relevant city council members.

So far she’s raised over $115,000 and has spent about $60,000 of that. Looks like she’s been buying lots of flyers and mailers.

In a recent interview with the Stranger Election Control Board, Perry said community members have been "begging" her to run against Lambert, and she heeded their call.

But her Democratic rival, Joe Cohen, argued that his "criminal justice experience" and "Eastside values" make him the right candidate to unseat Lambert.

He was born in Bellevue and lived in Western Washington until grad school, when he hauled off to D.C. to study Government at Georgetown and to earn a law degree from George Washington University. While he was over there he worked as an aide for U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell for a few years, a policy analyst under Obama's drug czar for half a year, and an analyst for the Office of the Inspector General, where he helped investigate federal law enforcement.

After all those public sector jobs, he jumped over to the private sector to work as a government compliance attorney for telecom companies. In his spare time he did pro bono stuff for kids seeking asylum and for tenants.

He said he moved back to the Eastside (Issaquah) in October of last year not to run for office but because "this is a place where I've always known I've wanted to raise a family.

"The Eastside has always been home," he added.

So far he's only raised a little over $34,000 (though he said that number's up to $50K now), and that includes a personal donation of over $7,000. He has spent about $24,000 of that already but only about $1,000 on voter communication.

He’s only picked up a few endorsements, including two sole endorsements from Democratic clubs that cover part of Redmond and that rural corner of the county.

Given the county's control over the criminal punishment system, the SECB spent most of its time talking about where the two candidates stood on those matters.

Neither candidate committed to defunding the police. Perry said discussions about funding the cops need to "bring the most impacted into the conversation and look at the budget together" with lawmakers, and Cohen argued that we actually "need to be investing" in cops. Cohen said "we definitely need to be" looking into sending "non-uniformed specialists to respond to nonviolent crimes," though admitted that "probably is going to take a little bit of time."

Both candidates want to end youth incarceration "ASAP," and both support decriminalizing sex work.

There was a little daylight between the candidates on the issue of drug decriminalization. Perry said "drug and alcohol addiction is a mental health crisis that should not be criminalized." Cohen said he liked where the Legislature landed last session—reducing simple drug possession to a misdemeanor after three strikes—and said "we want to have as low of a hook as possible so it incentivizes people to get into treatment."

Perry agreed when we asked if the council should work to "legalize apartments everywhere" in the county's "fastest-growing district," as she called it, but she also agreed with Cohen when he said that zoning "has to fit the nature of the neighborhood." Perry added that discussions with mayors on zoning need to be "careful" and "open," and advocated for a multi-tiered approach that looped in federal and state lawmakers.

Both candidates also pitched themselves as transit champions. Perry said "God yes" when asked about whether she'd fight for more bus service, and Cohen said "if you build it they will come," though he also talked up his ability to spot government "waste" in spending.

Cohen stood out for his love of uh..."creative" ideas. "If we're talking about the future," he added when discussing the last-mile problem, "we need to look at driverless cars. Driverless fleets."

He expressed support for Elon Musk's "hyperloop," saying that if a private company wanted to come here and build that then why not. He said he wouldn't necessarily call himself an "Elon stan," but said "that’s the creativity we need."