Seattle City Attorney poll finding
A visual of NPI's poll finding for Seattle City Attorney, 2021

As the end of Fil­ing Week approached a cou­ple of months ago, three term incum­bent Seat­tle City Attor­ney Pete Holmes’ name was list­ed alone under the head­ing for that office, with seem­ing­ly no chal­lengers in sight and one ear­ly promi­nent chal­lenger hav­ing with­drawn from the race weeks before.

Then, with the Fri­day after­noon dead­line quick­ly draw­ing near, two oppo­nents emerged at last: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison.

Both chal­lengers are right behind Holmes as vot­ing begins in the August 2021 Top Two elec­tion, with 53% of like­ly vot­ers not sure who they’re vot­ing for, a new poll con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

Holmes does have a lead, but it’s very small.

There’s sim­ply not much dis­tance right now between his can­di­da­cy, which gar­nered 16% sup­port, and that of Thomas-Kennedy and Davi­son, who each earned the sup­port of 14% of respon­dents in the survey.

Seattle City Attorney poll finding
A visu­al of NPI’s poll find­ing for Seat­tle City Attor­ney, 2021

Holmes was eas­i­ly reelect­ed in 2017 and 2013, but this year could be a dif­fer­ent sto­ry, our sur­vey results sug­gest. Dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Holmes prompt­ed both The Seat­tle Times and The Stranger to recent­ly endorse his opponents.

The Times picked Davi­son, while The Stranger chose Thomas-Kennedy.

“Davi­son faces long odds; Holmes took 74.5% of the vote in 2017,” the Times edi­to­r­i­al board not­ed in its endorse­ment of her.

Long odds? Maybe, maybe not. Any of the pos­si­ble gen­er­al elec­tion matchups seem like they are on the table as pos­si­bil­i­ties at this junc­ture: Holmes vs. Davi­son. Holmes vs. Thomas-Kennedy. Thomas-Kennedy vs. Davison.

With the can­di­dates so close togeth­er and so many vot­ers unde­cid­ed, it’s just not pos­si­ble to project with con­fi­dence who will get through.

But it is strik­ing that an incum­bent who received three-fourths of the vote in his last reelec­tion and has been in office for twelve years only has 16% sup­port among like­ly vot­ers with just three weeks to go until Elec­tion Day.

Our Top Two elec­tion sur­vey, which was con­duct­ed by Change Research for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence inter­val. All 617 respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed online. The poll was in the field from Mon­day, July 12th, 2021 through Thurs­day, July 15th, 2021.

Here are the exact ques­tions that we asked, and the respons­es that we received:

QUESTION: The can­di­dates for City Attor­ney this year are list­ed below in the order that they will appear on the August Top Two bal­lot. Who are you vot­ing for?

[See list of can­di­dates as it was shown to respon­dents]


  • Not sure: 72%
  • Pete Holmes: 11%
  • Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: 9%
  • Ann Davi­son: 8%

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION ASKED OF UNDECIDED VOTERS ONLY: If you had to choose, who would you vote for?


  • Not sure: 73%
  • Ann Davi­son: 8%
  • Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: 7%
  • Pete Holmes: 6%
  • Would not vote: 5%


  • Not sure: 53%
  • Pete Holmes: 16%
  • Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: 14%
  • Ann Davi­son: 14%
  • Would not vote: 4%

Among the unde­cid­ed vot­ers who made a selec­tion in the fol­low-up ques­tion, Davi­son was the top choice, fol­lowed by Thomas-Kennedy and then Holmes, with bare­ly any dis­tance between the can­di­dates. This is anoth­er indi­ca­tion that Holmes’ reelec­tion cam­paign could be in trouble.

Hav­ing won reelec­tion by huge mar­gins in the past, Holmes can afford to lose some sup­port and still return to office for a fourth term.

But again, it’s note­wor­thy that the vot­ers Change Research sur­veyed for us did­n’t come home to Holmes giv­en the chance (no pun intended).

The three can­di­dates each have dif­fer­ent emphases in their campaigns.

Thomas-Kennedy is run­ning on a plat­form of decrim­i­nal­iz­ing pover­ty, com­mu­ni­ty self-deter­mi­na­tion, green infra­struc­ture, law for the peo­ple, and end­ing sweeps.

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

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

Davi­son cites goals like “focus on improv­ing effi­cien­cies with­in divi­sion in regards to zon­ing” and “trans­form exist­ing Men­tal Health Court to spe­cial­ized Behav­ioral Health Court for cas­es that involve men­tal health, sub­stance use dis­or­der or dual diag­no­sis” as her civ­il divi­sion and crim­i­nal divi­sion pri­or­i­ties if elected.

“The City Attor­ney is a crit­i­cal link to pub­lic safe­ty, down­town and in our neigh­bor­hoods, decid­ing when to pros­e­cute many types of crim­i­nal activ­i­ty. We need bal­anced lead­er­ship that makes us smart on crime: proac­tive not reac­tive,” her web­site says. “We need a col­lab­o­ra­tive leader bring­ing actu­al compassion.”

Davi­son was an unsuc­cess­ful Repub­li­can can­di­date for statewide office last year. She ran for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor and was elim­i­nat­ed in the Top Two election.

The front page of Holmes’ reelec­tion web­site points to his endorse­ment in the Fuse Pro­gres­sive Vot­ers Guide, which has this intro­duc­to­ry state­ment: “There are two pro­gres­sives run­ning for Seat­tle City Attor­ney who would bring dif­fer­ent approach­es to the office. Incum­bent Pete Holmes has earned more sup­port from local lead­ers and our Pro­gres­sive Vot­ers Guide part­ner organizations.”

“If re-elect­ed, Holmes has a pro­gres­sive vision for the role of city attor­ney in response to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and the move­ment for racial jus­tice,” Fuse’s Seat­tle City Attor­ney can­di­date entry reads.

“His pri­or­i­ties include improv­ing police account­abil­i­ty, gun safe­ty, and cre­at­ing a lev­el play­ing field in our legal sys­tem and city. To achieve these goals, Holmes pro­pos­es pass­ing stronger gun laws, reduc­ing exces­sive force on the part of the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment, vacat­ing mar­i­jua­na charges, and keep­ing peo­ple housed post-pan­dem­ic, among oth­er policies.”

Bal­lots in the August Top Two elec­tion are due back by Tues­day, August 3rd at 8 PM. A list of drop box loca­tions in Seat­tle and across Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Coun­ty is avail­able from King Coun­ty Elec­tions. Bal­lots can also be returned through the Unit­ed States Mail, but we rec­om­mend using a drop box.

NPI does not endorse can­di­dates for office and is not aligned with any of the can­di­dates run­ning for elect­ed posi­tions in Seat­tle this year. No cam­paigns were involved in the design or exe­cu­tion of this survey.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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