Categories: Elections

Ann Davison pulling away from rival Nicole Thomas-Kennedy in Seattle City Attorney race

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.

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.

Andrew Villeneuve

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