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

Back in August, after NPI’s polling fore­shad­owed that his cam­paign for a fourth term was in trou­ble, vot­ers oust­ed incum­bent City Attor­ney Pete Holmes as Seat­tle’s chief law enforce­ment offi­cer, opt­ing instead to send two lit­tle-known chal­lengers on to the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion runoff: three-time can­di­date Ann Davi­son and first-time can­di­date Nicole Thomas-Kennedy.

While it ini­tial­ly appeared that the race between Davi­son and Thomas-Kennedy could be close (based on the returns in the Top Two elec­tion and oth­er indi­ca­tors), our gen­er­al elec­tion sur­vey of the Seat­tle elec­torate shows that the dynam­ics in this con­test have now sig­nif­i­cant­ly changed. Davi­son’s can­di­da­cy is get­ting lots of trac­tion among vot­ers, while Thomas-Kennedy’s isn’t.

Davi­son has the biggest advan­tage of any can­di­date in any of Seat­tle’s four city­wide races right now, with a nine­teen point lead over Thomas-Kennedy.

43% of 617 like­ly 2021 vot­ers in Seat­tle said last week that they are vot­ing for Davi­son for City Attor­ney, while just 24% said they were vot­ing for Thomas-Kennedy. A sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age, 30%, are not sure, and 2% would not vote.

Thomas-Kennedy won the August 2021 Top Two elec­tion with 36.39% of the vote, sur­pass­ing Davi­son in late bal­lots to claim the first place spot.

Davi­son came in sec­ond with 32.72%; incum­bent City Attor­ney Pete Holmes placed third with 30.64%, and was, as men­tioned, eliminated.

NPI’s July 2021 sur­vey of the Seat­tle elec­torate had indi­cat­ed it was a three-way race, with Holmes at 16%, both chal­lengers at 14%, and a major­i­ty unde­cid­ed.

Now the race is look­ing like it could be an increas­ing­ly lop­sided runoff.

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

Our new poll, which was con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute by Change Research, has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.1% at the 95% con­fi­dence inter­val. All 617 respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed online. The poll was in the field from Tues­day, Octo­ber 12th, 2021 through Fri­day, Octo­ber 15th, 2021.

Fol­low this link if you’re inter­est­ed in a detailed primer on the sur­vey’s method­ol­o­gy along with infor­ma­tion about who took the poll. 

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 Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot. Who are you vot­ing for?

[See list as it was shown to respon­dents]


  • Ann Davi­son: 39%
  • Not sure: 39%
  • Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: 22%

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


  • [Still] Not sure: 78%
  • Ann Davi­son: 10%
  • Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: 6%
  • Would not vote: 6%


  • Ann Davi­son: 43%
  • Not sure: 30%
  • Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: 24%
  • Would not vote: 2%

Notably, there are more not sure vot­ers than Thomas-Kennedy supporters.

While Davi­son has a big lead, it’s sev­er­al points under fifty per­cent, and only a plu­ral­i­ty are com­mit­ted to her can­di­da­cy at this point. So while it’s not over for Thomas-Kennedy, her path to vic­to­ry looks much, much tougher than Davison’s.

Last year, after run­ning unsuc­cess­ful­ly for Seat­tle City Coun­cil in 2019, Davi­son pub­licly renounced the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, joined the par­ty of Trump, and sought office again, this time for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor as a Republican.

As in 2019, she was elim­i­nat­ed in the August Top Two elec­tion, with both gen­er­al elec­tion spots in that con­test going to Demo­c­ra­t­ic hope­fuls for the first time (State Sen­a­tor Marko Liias and U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck).

Davi­son now says that she vot­ed for Joe Biden in last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as opposed to Trump, the Repub­li­can nominee.

Thomas-Kennedy, mean­while, has come under fire for a series of awful tweets she pub­lished pri­or to becom­ing a can­di­date, espe­cial­ly mes­sages cel­e­brat­ing and con­don­ing prop­er­ty destruc­tion and taunt­ing the Seat­tle Police Department.

The Seat­tle Times has seized on those tweets to bash Thomas-Kennedy on an extreme­ly fre­quent basis while pro­mot­ing Davi­son’s candidacy.

Davi­son has been fre­quent­ly retweet­ing those edi­to­ri­als and pil­ing on.

“ ‘Reject the evi­dence and refuse to apply the law’ is the approach of self-pro­claimed nihilist, abo­li­tion­ist, and lawyer of only four years Nicole Thomas-Kennedy in a nut­shell,” Davi­son tweet­ed on Octo­ber 11th.

Thomas-Kennedy, mean­while, says Davi­son has repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed through her rhetoric that she does­n’t under­stand the func­tion or role of the office and has almost no rel­e­vant Seat­tle Munic­i­pal Court expe­ri­ence (where­as she does).

Speak­ing to Pub­li­Co­la’s Eri­ca C. Bar­nett, Thomas-Kennedy explained that the tweets that are being used as grist for attack­ing her can­di­da­cy were writ­ten at a time when she was feel­ing a lot of anger.

“I was out­raged,” Thomas-Kennedy said. “Peo­ple went out to protest racist polic­ing and the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment respond­ed with a lev­el of retal­i­a­tion that I was not expect­ing, includ­ing tear-gassing the neigh­bor­hood I live in eleven times. And, you know, I had to buy a gas mask for my nine-year-old daugh­ter. And, yeah, I was real­ly upset, and I feel like I had every right to be.”

For­mer Gov­er­nors Gary Locke and Chris Gre­goire have con­clud­ed that Thomas-Kennedy sim­ply does­n’t have the tem­pera­ment to be City Attor­ney, and have endorsed Davi­son, despite Davi­son’s almost total lack of court experience.

They have been joined by a num­ber of retired judges and jus­tices who are well respect­ed in the legal com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing Lau­ra Inveen, Bobbe Bridge, Bruce Hily­er, Ed McKen­na, and Judith Mont­gomery Hightower.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lead­ers have fierce­ly crit­i­cized both Davi­son and her Demo­c­ra­t­ic sup­port­ers. “You can’t call your­self a Demo­c­rat and sup­port a Repub­li­can for this job,” King Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Shasti Con­rad told The Seat­tle Times.

Thomas-Kennedy, hop­ing to appeal to Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers, has not­ed that Davi­son  is employ­ing Repub­li­can firms to research and plot attacks against her.

“My Repub­li­can oppo­nent paid the largest Repub­li­can cam­paign firm to dig up ‘dirt’ on me. She’s got cor­po­rate inter­ests & the right wing media on her side,” Thomas-Kennedy wrote in an Octo­ber 17th Twit­ter cam­paign update.

Davi­son also has the pub­lic back­ing of the King Coun­ty Repub­li­can Par­ty and right wing talk radio talk hosts like Bon­neville’s Jason Rantz.

In a more con­ven­tion­al Seat­tle con­test, Davi­son’s asso­ci­a­tions could eas­i­ly make her une­lec­table. But the dynam­ics of this race are unusual.

Holmes is out of the run­ning and Thomas-Kennedy is seek­ing office as an abo­li­tion­ist rather than char­ac­ter­iz­ing her­self as a pro­gres­sive Democrat.

That choice of brand, com­bined with Thomas-Kennedy’s much-crit­i­cized Twit­ter archive, seems to have opened the door for Davi­son with Demo­c­ra­t­ic and pro­gres­sive vot­ers. Our team thinks it’s sig­nif­i­cant that vot­ers of col­or pre­fer Davi­son by a more than two-to-one mar­gin (44% for Davi­son, 21% for Thomas-Kennedy, 34% not sure) and vot­ers in three of our four age brackets.

The youngest vot­ers do pre­fer Thomas-Kennedy, but her advan­tage with them is not over­whelm­ing: she has 36% sup­port from vot­ers ages eigh­teen to thir­ty-four, while Davi­son has sup­port from 28% of that group.

Near­ly a third of the youngest vot­ers — 32% — aren’t sure.

With so many vot­ers unde­cid­ed, there remains an open­ing for Thomas-Kennedy to bounce back before the elec­tion ends. But her past tweets will con­tin­ue to haunt her cam­paign. NPI’s polling data def­i­nite­ly sug­gests that the attacks being launched by The Seat­tle Times and Davi­son’s allies are work­ing. Vot­ers are com­mit­ting to Davi­son while Thomas-Kennedy’s cam­paign stalls.

If these dynam­ics don’t change, by the end of the year, Seat­tle could have a City Attor­ney elect­ed with the sup­port of the Repub­li­can Par­ty and right wing groups.

NPI is not aligned with either Davi­son or Thomas-Kennedy and does not have an endorse­ment in the Seat­tle city attor­ney race, or any involve­ment in an inde­pen­dent expen­di­ture sup­port­ing or oppos­ing either candidate.

Vot­ing in the Novem­ber 2021 gen­er­al will end on Novem­ber 2nd. Bal­lots must car­ry a 11/02/2021 post­mark or be in a drop­box by 8 PM to count.

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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