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under the heading for that office, with seemingly no challengers in sight and one early prominent challenger having withdrawn from the race weeks before.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.
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.
“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?
- 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%
COMBINED ANSWERS, BOTH QUESTIONS:
- 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.