With 12-year incumbent out, tectonic changes are on the way for Seattle City Attorney’s office

Aug 9, 2021, 6:08 AM | Updated: 11:02 am
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Seattle City Attorney candidates Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison. (courtesy photos)
(courtesy photos)

With 12-year incumbent Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes having officially bowed out, the political gap between the remaining two candidates is perhaps the widest of any other race.

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Both Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison threw their names into the ring just under the May filing deadline for candidates. And while Holmes was still initially expected to handily win reelection against the pair of newcomers, his tenuous hold on the race became clear in July, when polling indicated that voters were beginning to lean away from the incumbent.

The primary election saw that trend play out in earnest, with Thomas-Kennedy and Davison pulling in 35% and 33% of the vote, respectively, leaving Holmes trailing behind in third at 31%.

Following Holmes’ concession last Friday, Seattle is now left with a choice between two candidates who would each represent a tectonic change for the city attorney’s office should they win in November.

For Thomas-Kennedy, a general election victory would put the self-described “abolitionist” in a position to follow through on her promise to end the prosecution of low-level misdemeanors, and, as she describes it, reduce the city’s dependence on law enforcement, lawyers, and jails.

“Every year the City Attorney chooses to prosecute petty offenses born out of poverty, addiction and disability,” she describes on her campaign website. “These prosecutions are destabilizing, ineffective, and cost the City millions each year.”

“We must dismantle this wasteful system of criminal punishment,” she continues.

With the endorsements from The Stranger, former Mayor Mike McGinn, and former mayoral candidate Cary Moon, Thomas-Kennedy has lined up support at the progressive end of the spectrum leading into November.

Opposing her is Davison, whose own victory in November would immediately set her apart as a rare conservative within Seattle City Hall. Having previously run as a Republican for Lieutenant Governor, her tough-on-crime campaign for city attorney this year has garnered the support of a PAC that supported several prominent Washington Republicans during the 2020 election cycle.

In the past she’s attacked Holmes for being too lenient with violent criminals, while frequently drawing parallels between the city’s growing issues with homeless encampments and a perceived criminal element stemming from that trend.

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“Right now, what society is screaming at us here locally is crime is increasing — social spending is increasing, prosecution is decreasing,” she told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show last week. “That tells us that the money is not the answer, or it’s not in appropriate programs where there are measurable outcomes to get to the interventions that we want. It tells us that there still does need to be an increase in prosecution.”

Although Holmes is now out of the race, he delivered parting shots at both candidates in his concession last Friday.

“The City Attorney’s Office does not have jurisdiction over felonies like murders, burglaries, drug offenses, or auto theft,” he addressed toward Davison’s campaign.

“Low-level cases like shoplifting and trespass are referred to the newly-established Community Court where intervention and restoration are the outcome, not jail,” he directed toward Thomas-Kennedy.

“After facing one candidate who considered my criminal policies too lax and another who considered them too draconian, it’s clear Seattle’s a city with fractured views, sadly reflective of the polarized politics that grips our nation,” Holmes concluded. “Whether the Republican candidate or the Abolitionist candidate prevails in November, they’ll face a truly daunting set of challenges.”

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With 12-year incumbent out, tectonic changes are on the way for Seattle City Attorney’s office