Perhaps the most important finding from NPI’s July 2021 survey of likely August 2021 Seattle voters was that incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes was in trouble… big trouble. Despite having served in the position for twelve years and having been reelected four years ago by enormous margins, our poll found Holmes in a dead heat with two challengers who are very different ideologically from him as well as well as from each other — and most voters undecided.
Tonight, about the only conclusion we can make is that NPI’s polling was spot on about the closeness of this race.
With 84,884 votes cast overall — 3,428 fewer than in the mayoral race in this first drop — the candidates each have close to one third of the vote.
Davison is the current leader, with 34.64% and 29,401 votes.
Holmes is in second place with 32.80% and 27,844 votes.
Thomas-Kennedy is in third place with 32.15% and 27,288 votes.
Only five hundred and fifty-six votes separate Holmes from challenger Thomas-Kennedy as of this first drop. And Holmes and Thomas-Kennedy are each less than 3,000 votes behind Davison. This contest will go down to the late ballots.
It is entirely possible that by week’s end, we could see a lead change for City Attorney, or maybe even multiple lead changes.
If Thomas-Kennedy (who was backed by The Stranger) improves in subsequent drops, she could move into second place, which would leave Holmes locked out of a spot on the general election ballot this autumn.
The order in which the candidates landed in this first batch of election results is the inverse of how they stack up against each other with respect to dollars and cents. Davison has raised the least, yet is currently in first place. Thomas-Kennedy has raised the most, yet is in third place. Here are the numbers:
- Thomas-Kennedy: Raised $116,232.04; spent $14,535.93 so far
- Holmes: Raised $104,701.26; spent $92,653.13 so far
- Davison: Raised $32,679.26; spent $11,062.84 so far
The fact that Holmes isn’t in first place in this first drop is another ominous sign for his candidacy. In our poll, he was barely ahead of his two challengers. His lead was within the modeled margin of error, making it statistically insignificant.
Now, almost three weeks later, he is behind one of his challengers and on the verge of falling behind the other. Not a good position for an incumbent to be in.
Seattle voters have ousted citywide incumbents in elimination rounds before — most memorably, two-term Mayor Greg Nickels in 2009.
Twelve summers ago, Nickels was eclipsed by two challengers: Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan. McGinn went on to win the general election and served one term as Mayor of Seattle. He was defeated in his reelection bid by Ed Murray, who became embroiled in scandal towards the end of his own first term and abruptly resigned after having decided not to seek reelection. Murray was succeeded by Jenny Durkan, who also decided not to seek reelection as Mayor.
Pete Holmes, meanwhile, has been City Attorney for all that time. He has served alongside McGinn, Murray, interim mayors Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess, and most recently Durkan. But his chances of getting to serve alongside Seattle’s new mayor are looking increasingly slim. Holmes has acknowledged in recent interviews that his time could be up, telling Crosscut’s David Kroman and The Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner that he is prepared to lose.
“I don’t know what to say. I am sixty-five. We’ll see what happens. I am at peace with what happens next Tuesday,” he remarked to Brunner last week.
We have now seen the initial results, but they don’t tell us who will be moving on in this race. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out how this drama ends.