LOCAL NEWS

Behind in fundraising with razor-thin polls, Seattle City Attorney faces uncertain path to reelection

Jul 30, 2021, 1:10 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2021, 6:01 am
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes...
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. (AP file/Elaine Thompson)
(AP file/Elaine Thompson)

In April, it looked as though incumbent Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes may very well end up running unopposed, after early challenger Steve Fortney abruptly dropped out. Then, two candidates threw their hats into the ring just before the city’s late-May filing deadline, leading to a primary race that appears to be far from decided.

Race for Seattle City Attorney draws pair of last-minute challengers

The cracks first began to show in mid-July, when polling data published by the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) showed that despite Holmes’ status as a 12-year incumbent, he was running neck-and-neck with his two challengers, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison. Of those polled, 16% expressed support for Holmes’ candidacy, with Thomas-Kennedy and Davison close behind at 14% each.

“It is striking that an incumbent who received three-fourths of the vote in his last reelection and has been in office for 12 years only has 16% support among likely voters with just three weeks to go until Election Day,” the NPI said.

Since then, Thomas-Kennedy has managed to outraise Holmes on the strength of over 6,400 Democracy Vouchers, totaling nearly $160,500. Comparatively, Holmes has redeemed $57,475 from roughly 2,300 vouchers. And while Davison is awaiting approval from the city for Democracy Vouchers, a local PAC that supported several prominent Republicans during the 2020 election cycle recently spent $20,000 on mailers promoting her campaign.

Meanwhile, both candidates have attacked Holmes from either side of the political spectrum. Davison — who ran as a Republican for Lieutenant Governor in 2020 — has criticized him for fostering “a culture of crime,” while centering her campaign on a “proactive” approach to prosecuting repeat offenders.

Thomas-Kennedy has focused on a different approach, advocating for the city to stop prosecuting low-level misdemeanors, while ending homeless sweeps, defunding the police department, and honing in on “large scale harms,” including “wage left, corporate landlords, and oil companies that destroy the environment.”

Why tight race for Seattle City Attorney is ‘seat to pay attention to’

Holmes has fired back in kind, engaging in a back-and-forth on Twitter with Thomas-Kennedy over a tweet she had sent out late last summer in response to protests over police violence, where she stated that “property destruction is a moral imperative.” While Holmes labeled it “outrageous and inappropriate,” Thomas-Kennedy defended her stance, saying that while she had originally said it “to be inflammatory,” she “tweeted it again because people were being murdered in the street and all the media, cops, and prosecutors care about is PROPERTY.”

Holmes — who criticized Davison for a photo where she appeared with Seattle Police Officer Guild President Mike Solan — also accused Davison of violating campaign finance laws for “not disclosing the costs or source of funds” for a collection of campaign mailers he claimed were “misleading” to the public. Davison’s campaign disputes that claim, pointing to a software update by the state’s Public Disclosure Commission that “created reporting errors” for several contributions.

As for where voters might land in August’s primary, that much remains unclear, as indicated by the 53% of voters who remained undecided in the NPI’s polling. But it’s that very uncertainty that could lead to a shakeup in Seattle’s City Attorney’s office by the time votes are counted next week.

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Behind in fundraising with razor-thin polls, Seattle City Attorney faces uncertain path to reelection