Conversation with Sarah Perry, King County Council Candidate, District 3

Conversation with Sarah Perry, King County Council Candidate, District 3

Today Crystal is joined by candidate for King County Council District 3, Sarah Perry. They discuss Sarah’s vision for community involvement in the district, how Sarah would work with communities that have been fully ignored by the incumbent Kathy Lambert, and her opponents outrageous take on sexual assault (among other things), supporting small businesses, and much more.

About the Guest

Find Sarah Perry on Twitter/X at @perryelect.


Night by Elie Wiesel:

“’Don’t go to a hotel room’ with a drunk man. Councilmember Kathy Lambert’s full KUOW interview” by Sydney Brownstone and Isolde Raftery from KUOW:

“Seattle Times Rescinds Kathy Lambert Endorsement Over Racist Mailer” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist:

“About the GMA [Growth Management Act” from Future Wise:

“2018 Small Business Profile” from the U.S. Small Business Administration:

“Washington trails the nation in mental health treatment” by Drew Atkins from Crosscut:

“Chicago attorney, activist picked as King County’s new director of Office of Law Enforcement Oversight” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times:

More information about Sarah Perry’s campaign for King County Council:


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes.

Today, I'm very excited to have Sarah Perry joining us - candidate for King County Council. Welcome!

[00:00:46] Sarah Perry: Thank you - I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - I am thrilled and excited - this is another race outside of Seattle. Sometimes we can get so Seattle-centric and focused on that, but man, there's a lot going on outside of Seattle that is hugely important to our region - impactful to the City, to the County, to our State realistically. And this is one of the most consequential races we face because this isn't just two people on the margins who agree on a lot of stuff. This isn't one of those - this may be a blowout race. This is highly competitive. You're running against an incumbent Republican - Kathy Lambert. This is in an Eastside district - so Issaquah, Redmond, Sammamish, some unincorporated King County - and wow, this is one of the premier races this cycle. What made you decide to run?

[00:01:45] Sarah Perry: I am so committed to civic engagement. I have a background in nonprofit and government sectors. I was the first Eastside - I was the first executive director for Eastside Housing, which is now Springboard Alliance at the base of Avondale and Redmond. And went from there to Seattle University and then to Social Venture Partners International. When I was at Social Venture Partners International, I went to Birkenau - Auschwitz-Birkenau - on the Rick Steves tour with my husband. And I was reading Elie Wiesel's Night - it was two weeks before the Holocaust survivor passed away. I was standing in Birkenau - Auschwitz-Birkenau - where he stood. And that was '16. And I knew in every fiber of my being that she was going to win that election. I just knew it - I felt it in my bones. But if for some chance she didn't win, all I could see were trains of Muslims this time, or trains of immigrants, or trains of people with brown skin because of the rhetoric from the candidate at the time - our former president. And I felt like I had to do something when I got back - something was so moved in me in that experience. And it's still with me and I knew I had to do something.

So I came back home and went to the single most unorganized experience of a 1,000 people - called the Democratic caucus. It was ridiculous. There were people booing with Hillary and with Bernie - it was ridiculous. Five people talking for one minute, one person talking for five minutes - and everybody's upset. And I'm an organizer in my sleep - and so I decided after four hours, I was going to get up and go home, or I was going to go and offer help. So I decided to do that first, and I did. He didn't know if I was friend or foe. I didn't know there was a Legislative District 5. I'd been involved in politics for campaigns - for presidential campaigns - throughout with my family, growing up with my family and my current family, but I had not been more involved. And so I didn't quite understand all of this and this man invited me to come and help with that - with selecting speakers.

The next week, he asked me to come to an executive - what turned out to be an Executive Board for the 5th Legislative District Democrats. And they nominated me as PCO chair on the spot. And I said, "That's great. That's great. What do they do?" And they said, "We don't know. We've never had one." I said, "Okay. Okay." So I was committed. I'm still committed in my marrow. And so I started calling people that were alternates and delegates. I started calling - I wanted an equal balance of people that identified as men and people that identified as women, and people who were supporting Bernie and supporting Hillary at their highest value. I wanted both at their highest value. So we pulled together a group of 24 leaders in '16 and in '17, and we started recruiting volunteers. And then in 2018, we had over 150 canvassers to activate - who knocked on 50 doors once a month for that entire year. And we flipped the 5th District and elected Bill Ramos as State Rep, Lisa Callan as State Rep, and then Kim Schrier also - a big part of the 8th Congressional District is the 5th District. So that experience was electric for me - seeing people, a whole bunch of people, giving a little bit in a way that works in their life - it was just electric. And I was inspired.

And after that I came home - when Bill Ramos was looking like he was going to win, I left Social Venture Partners International, came home and began my work again. I'd started work with Perry Consulting - decade before, two decades before - and I built that up again. And as I was doing this volunteer work - so it was 30 to 40 hours of volunteer work each week - while I had my day job. And as I was doing that, I just continued to be deeply connected to the House and the Senate and the Governor and Bob Ferguson and all these different candidates. So once that happened, the House and the Senate hired me to do the same kind of thing in Puyallup and Vancouver, Washington - and that was amazing. And then pandemic - doing this in the middle of phone calls was a completely different experience, but still the bones were in place.

During that whole time, people were saying, "When are you going to run? When are you going to run? When are you going to run? This is all great. Thanks for organizing. When are you going to run? And when are you going to run specifically for this position?" And I've been thinking about it because what I am at heart is a coalition builder - I love to mobilize people and engage people in shared values. And so I looked at this position very carefully and I realized there are many, many voices that are not being heard from. We have a huge community of Hindu and Muslim, secular Indian and African. We also have Latinos, the Hmong community, African-American community. Many of these voices are not at the table in discussion with our current King County representative. Many have never ever seen her - many, many. There are areas around the environment and around transit that desperately need support and need attention and need complex thinking, not simple singular solutions. And I am ready to take that on and I am thrilled with the opportunity.

And the first thing I did was I called Bob Ferguson and I said, "I'm thinking about doing this. Am I nuts? What do you think?" And he said, "If you do this, I will move everything in my power to help you get elected." I said, "That is amazing. Why would you do that? I mean, thank you, but why would you do that?" And he said, "Because we've been looking for someone for years who could run in this position and represent the values of this district and where we need to go. And if anybody can do it, you can do it." So that just continued to move forward, continued to move forward - and I got a similar message from so many people and yeah, I am completely, completely electric about this opportunity for coalition building so we have civic engagement throughout KCD 3.

[00:08:25] Crystal Fincher: And that's what makes me so excited about you. I had mentioned to you before - a mutual friend of ours was who first turned me on to you. And it was just like, "You know what? There is this woman in Issaquah who," - and Issqauah was not organized in any way - in the Democratic party, outside. Many people had kind of written off in terms of organization or engagement - the Eastside. Certainly that County Council district is represented by a Republican - it's purple if not red. Hey, let's go focus somewhere else. And there, there wasn't much going on there. And you basically said, "Yeah I'm just going to do this." And knocked on doors in neighborhoods, found Precinct Committee Officers who are critical to increasing turnout and to helping people get out the vote for Democratic candidates and left-leaning candidates - critical, especially in districts represented by Republicans. And just did the work. I appreciate people who just do the work.

[00:09:38] Sarah Perry: I appreciate people who do the work too.

[00:09:43] Crystal Fincher: So that's what got me so excited - because not only were you willing to do the work, but you were effective - you were highly successful in recruiting PCOs and reaching out to members of all different types of communities and bringing everyone together. And as you said, you were - I feel that you were critical - you were a critical component in flipping the Legislative District. And certainly the coalition that you are continuing to build is certainly propelling you in this race and wow, what a competitive race it is.

And just in case people have not been paying close attention to this district race with Kathy Lambert. Kathy's a problem. Kathy is a proud Republican - praised Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, voted against storing guns safely, voted against pro-choice causes. Joe Fain, a former Senator - State Senator in the 47th district - was credibly accused of rape, ended up losing his seat - that certainly contributed to it. And she blamed the victim and went as far as saying, "Hey, when I was younger, slapping a woman on the butt was a compliment." Now to be clear - Joe Fain was accused of much more than that, but just that - like who does that today? You know - just take it as a compliment, who should know - and just blindly defending Joe Fain. It's just problem, upon problem, upon problem.

And so the values that she represents are so far away from where people are at today. Looking at how the district has been voting, it's been trending far away from that and getting further away. So the primary was interesting - it was a competitive primary and who is going to be the Democrat who comes out to face Kathy Lambert. This is a top two primary, but it is a Democrat and a Republican. And so you wound up being the choice of the community and of progressives to go up against Kathy Lambert - and wow. How do you begin to address the needs and the issues of the community when you have someone so extreme, and so problematic, and out of touch with people? What's it like to run against that? And what are you focused on getting accomplished first?

[00:12:34] Sarah Perry: Thanks. You know - she is who she is, she's who she's always been. And we can no longer afford to have simple solutions. And part of the challenge is that she's been here for 20 years since Bush was in office. And our district has changed so much since then - 68% of our district voted for Biden. Bob Ferguson, Mike Pellicciotti - they're at 65% - it really is very strong in that direction. But that aside, she is a strong supporter, as you say, of Betsy DeVos - I'm a strong supporter of public education. And when I look at the district and because of the work that I've done in Issaquah - so I've lived in Issaquah for 21 years, North Bend for six years, worked and played throughout the district - I love this district. I love the cities of Issaquah, Sammamish and Redmond. We have unincorporated Woodinville, we have these beautiful towns of Duvall, Carnation, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Fall City. One third of our district is unincorporated, and when you look at the primary, that's where she had any of her strength and the 40% that she received of the vote was from that area - 60% between me and the other Democratic challenger, Joe Cohen, who turned around and endorsed me - for which I'm very grateful.

You know - I feel that with the work that we're doing at the doors, with the support that we've been able to raise, the endorsements that we've been able to raise - I have a few folks that would have otherwise voted for her and supported her, but feel so strongly that she's just not able to get the work done anymore on council. They don't feel the same way about the others, but they feel this way about her. And so, essentially, we need a fighter in this position. And I think people know that - I think people are also - they get tired of the same person for so long, especially in a district that has shifted so much. So many new families have moved in and so much more diversity. And we just have a lot of work to do here. So when I'm talking to the environmental community, they just come right in - and they're excited that I am focused on Growth Management Act and keeping the growth in our urban boundaries. They're excited that we set up zoning laws to protect our farmers and our farmland - not so that somebody can come along and allow businesses to be set up, favorite friends or whatever, and not have the mitigation for the sewer, so that the sewage runs into the farmland and into the waterways. And it's those businesses, but not these businesses - so I'm a middle child and things have to be fair.

And so it really - I'm really okay with what we do, but we have to do it together. We have to have this conversation together - look at how all of the communities are impacted, make sure there's an environmental impact statement, and go from there. We do need to upgrade the Growth Management Act - it's absolutely true, but we have five forests and four watersheds. We have federal, state, county, city and private forest. We have so much space - 500 of the 1,500 miles of unincorporated roads are in this district. People come out here from all over the place and because we're the second fastest growing district in the next 10 years next to Bellevue - Claudia's is also in there. We have so much to protect if we're going to meet our environmental impact goals. So people - it's resonating with the environmental community, it's resonating with the transit community who understands that we need to make it very convenient for people to get out of their single-use vehicles into electric shuttles or the bike lane or walkways. And also that we are focusing on safe communities from a collaborative standpoint, so that we have folks working together who are most impacted with the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, with the new Sheriff - making sure that the people who feel most impacted by any bias that might be going on are in that conversation together. And we do it together. And when we lean in, things only improve. And so having more civic engagement is a very exciting thing to me. And I think when we have these conversations one after the other, it just seems to be resonating with people and they're coming on board.

So she raised a $100,000, she spent a $100,000 in the primary. She's got another $140,000 from 20 years of not being seriously challenged that she's bringing into the general. And I spent so much of my money - I've got half of that right now. It doesn't look like that on the PDC, but I've got half of that to be able to meet all of the challenges for these next three weeks before the ballots arrive. So I'm just working really hard to shore up that support so that we can have the digital and cable and mailings that we need, 'cause I know that that's her focus - digital.

[00:17:53] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely.

[00:17:53] Sarah Perry: Yeah.

[00:17:54] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Now there's a lot that going to be on your plate, if and when you get elected. We're facing so many crises that are converging and making each other crisis worse. We're still in the middle of this pandemic, we're still dealing with COVID - and it's a huge problem. And negotiating through how this is being handled at schools, at local businesses, just in the community. There's an eviction cliff coming and getting the assistance out that has been provided for at the County has been a major problem. And getting the funds that are already earmarked to help people prevent eviction hasn't quite been happening. And so there's still a massive risk of people who are behind on their rent - most of them multiple months. We've got people struggling - the have-nots have less, the haves have even more throughout this pandemic. And so there are people who are really at the margins just struggling - who've been put out of work, who've had hours reduced - a lot of uncertainty with businesses as we continue to negotiate through COVID and more. How do you address all of that? What is the plan?

[00:19:26] Sarah Perry: That is a great question. One of the first things that I'm going to do is build a KCD 3 community coalition. So what I want is I want people at the table. I want people looking at current practices and policies from each of our communities, from education and business, environmental, from our secular Indian and African communities, our Hindu, our Muslim communities, our Sikh, Latino, African-American. I want everybody at that conversation so that we can look at where King County is impacting with the tax dollars - all of its residents and where it's completely missing it.

I'm also very appreciative of the work that Senator Manka Dhingra and Claudia Balducci have done. They've met with business owners from the communities of color every month all year - throughout the pandemic - all year last year, and into this year. And the current incumbent in this district has not attended one. I just don't understand that. And so I'm very excited to work with communities of color and businesses. I believe that when our small businesses thrive, our communities thrive. I know they provide half the jobs in this country - they're the second most trusted institution in this country and in every community they need to thrive. And that's why we're doing a small business Saturday video - I'm going to continue to do a highlighting of businesses and work to see what we can do to streamline fees and regulations across all seven cities that can be cumbersome and inhibit the success of our small businesses at a critical time - that part's important.

I'm very interested in women - in strengthening women and women's self-sufficiency. I want to see transit options that are working with childcare, that support people in childcare, and needs for elder care. I want to see the support coming in more and more for our labor industry, for women, and for communities of color - in internship programs to strengthen these spaces, to promote a middle-class income.

I want to see our housing really focus in on what we can do. I know that we - the seven cities had to figure out how much housing and the jobs and transit through 2044 - that was a few months back. And Redmond requested the majority - the lion's share of housing in this district through 2044, and that is because of light rail. So there's going to be huge development in Redmond for affordable housing, workforce housing, many different kinds of housing centered around light rail and mass transit opportunities. In Issaquah, there's 8,000 apartments and townhouses coming in. In the foreseeable future, there's just a lot of development of this kind of housing. And I want to make sure that it's not just affordable, but that it's attainable. I want to see people be able to live, work and play in the same community if that is their choice. That impacts our social texture, it impacts our environment, it impacts all of the areas that are of most critical concern.

And because this is one of the two fastest growing region, districts in all of nine districts in King County, we have to get a hold of this. We have to pay attention to how we're going to do this together in a smart way. So I want to be in that conversation, but I'm not going to wear the white cape and step up and say, "Thanks for waiting. Here's the solution." I'm going to bring in people who are closest to the issue at hand and experts in the area - in these different spaces and have that dialogue together so that it is informed by the communities. That is what is critically missing in this district - is that things are not informed by the communities. There's a solution that's too simple, that's brought up and moved forward, and nobody will vote for it on council, and it goes nowhere, and it's talked about over and over and over for years and nothing happens.

So we need to shake that up and do it differently and act as if every single resident, the voice of every single resident, matters. And I mean whether they agree with each other or not - I want a good balance of people who are grounded in their values. Like my husband and I, we don't always get along and I can be strong, he can be strong - but we put the marriage in the middle of that conversation. It is the health of the marriage that we look at when we are moving forward. And I want the health of our community as the thing that we look at when we are moving forward. But I want people who feel strongly and have divergent viewpoints and they're grounded in their values - I want those folks at the table - not for the fight, but for the movement forward. .

[00:24:20] Crystal Fincher: Well, and that's an interesting point that you bring up. And one that - in talking with a lot of candidates - there's wanting to get community and put - absolutely necessary and needing to make sure that you are including people who are impacted in solutions. If you don't, they're not going to work - they're certainly not going to serve everybody. But at the end of the day, you have to make a decision one way or the other. How do you parse hearing different viewpoints, talking to different communities, having sometimes competing interests, sometimes just different interests that aren't necessarily competing - just different? How do you parse that at the end of the day? And I guess - what is your North Star, when you're saying first and foremost, I have to make sure that I deliver this for the community - how do you parse that?

[00:25:15] Sarah Perry: Greatest good is always my North Star - what is the greatest good? What is the least suffering? Who is suffering the most? So when everybody does better, everybody does better, right? So I want to make sure that we are looking at our communities that are struggling the most, that are in the most vulnerable situation. And look at that as the guidepost for how we get to better - because better is determined by your weakest space. And weakest not being the people - people are often very strong, but they are not listened to or deliberately ignored. And we need to make sure that we are hearing what is best for each of the communities and engaging. And at the end of the day, I'm going to look at the greatest good - what's happening for our children, what's happening for our seniors, what's happening for our women.

These are things that sit with me - women really rock the communities. They hold the communities and they need to be supported in raising their families and in supporting elder parents. And what does that mean? That means when they need to be supported - it means recognizing that childcare and eldercare is not women's work. It's the work of our future collectively. So it's really a telltale that so many of our women have had to leave the workforce because they're paid less in the partnerships, they're paid less for the same job. They leave the workforce to take care of the children or to take care of their elder parents. And the challenge there is that they're then sacrificing their advancement, their financial prosperity in the future, their children's education and advancement in the future. There are so many dominoes to that - that fall. And so, you know, I'm really focused on how we take care of our children and our elderly and our most vulnerable first - as a society, as a people.

[00:27:21] Crystal Fincher: Well and we're in a situation where we're seeing the most vulnerable suffering in ways that are heartbreaking and frankly unnecessary - they're results of policy decisions - whether it's looking at our sizable unhoused population, people dealing with mental illness and mental health issues, which has certainly been aggravated by everything that people have had to deal with throughout this pandemic. And people just wanting to feel safe in their neighborhoods and not necessarily feeling that way - that those who currently are in charge of policing don't always serve the goal of public safety for everyone. How do you address that?

[00:28:08] Sarah Perry: Yeah. Homelessness - not having housing - is a complicated issue. And you might have folks who are struggling with behavioral health - we, in my family, have had the opportunity, the unfortunate opportunity, to see the acute failure of our state in this area - in our family. And seeing that firsthand - watching what's possible, watching how it works with a family that can have choices - as we had the privilege of choice to go to other states. Others don't have that option. This affects all of us and people could be - they could not have housing because they had behavioral health issues that Washington State really does not have the training and the resources and the personnel and the psychiatric hospital beds to address. We are below Tennessee. We are below Mississippi. This is a great state. Why is that? Why is that, right?

And Manka Dhingra has done amazing work. She's moved us up - we were 48th. We're now like 35th - something like that - because of her work. She's such a Trojan, such a champion in this area. It could be because somebody has a behavioral health issue and is not getting the medication, the counseling, the psychiatry, and the support they need to get through that blip in their life - and it becomes a catastrophe rather than a blip, and where they can then go on to live a meaningful stable life. Or it could be substance use disorders - so addiction is serious and real and heavy. It's opioid, it's alcohol, it's other drugs - sometimes that's used to self-medicate with behavioral health needs. Sometimes it's just the pure addiction unto itself - it needs its own set of complicated, not simple solutions - complicated, not simple solutions for mental health, for behavioral health needs as well.

And then you also might just be - you've got your kids, you're living in a car because why - well, you're working - but you have to pay childcare, which costs the same as another mortgage or rent. So you can scrape that together to keep your kids stable and you're working and you're living in your car - first, last and deposit without behavioral health issues, without substance use issues - just plain too expensive without enough support. These are complicated issues, but we are a smart people. We are a smart, smart people, and we can figure this out. But the only way we can figure it out is if we own it as our issue. Yeah, 1% or 2% are given a bus fare from Florida or somewhere else - one-way to Seattle - that is true, but it's a phenomenal thing. Phenomenology thing - it's 1% or 2% - the rest start in the zip code that they end up in. These are our people - they're my weird Uncle Al, or they're our kids, or they're our siblings, or they're parents. All of these are our people, and until we embrace that as a solution that cannot be swept away - people don't - human beings don't go away. It's not going to go away until we lean into it and engage and embrace and look at these solutions together and own it together. It's complicated, but it's only through that complicated, sophisticated work together that we can come to a solution and we can do it.

And I am excited to be in a district here that can support folks being safe, finding housing, feeling safe walking around in their communities, walking into businesses, not having to walk on needles and excrement, feeling safe in that way. Knowing that they have law enforcement who are not the bad apples, but the good apples that have stuck around and they want to understand their own racial bias and they want to comply with the accountability and transparency. They're the leading edge in those conversations because they know it's critical and they're in it and they welcome it - like our new Director of the Law Enforcement Oversight. He knows - he knows that he has to lean into the community and if the community doesn't work with him, it won't work. He knows that. Well, that is an amazing first start. And he's Muslim. That's a lovely thing too.

[00:32:18] Crystal Fincher: Well, I appreciate the thoughtfulness that you've taken in your approach and just how you've involved the entire community. If people want to learn more about your campaign, get involved - how do they do that?

[00:32:34] Sarah Perry: is the website, and there are opportunities for weekend canvasses or canvases during - we go every single day - I'm knocking on 50 doors a day. But people can go knock if they're comfortable - we show them, we take all safety protocols - only vaccinated folks and still wearing masks. But they can do that - we are doing phone banks, we are doing text banks. They can make a contribution to support our campaign. We'll be doing sign wavings. We got lots of opportunities with labor to do sign wavings as well and lit drops - all of those things are in place and they can check out our website, give us a call. We would love to get anybody involved at the level - lots or little time - they like to do it - to make, to be effective and to feel like they're contributing to changing democracy because this district needs that change. And we need you with us to win.

[00:33:28] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, it does. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We're going to be keeping our eye on this. It's one of the biggest opportunities this cycle to make a big change from a Republican district to a Democratic one. And in one of the biggest, most prosperous districts and the biggest county in the state - that's incredibly impactful. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

[00:33:55] Sarah Perry: Thank you for having me - really, really appreciate being here and you elevating this and letting folks know what's happening on the Eastside.

[00:34:03] Crystal Fincher: I thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Chang. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I and now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - we'll talk to you next time.