It has been a long, long time since a Republican was elected to a citywide position in Seattle, but that could be about to change if the election results we’re seeing tonight hold. With about fifty percent of the ballots that are expected to be cast in the election tabulated thus far, Ann Davison has a seventeen point lead over rival Nicole Thomas-Kennedy for Seattle City Attorney.
Davison has 58.25% of the vote and Thomas-Kennedy has 40.96%.
The post, one of two executive positions chosen by Emerald City voters every four years, is currently held by three-term incumbent Pete Holmes.
Holmes failed to advance to the November general election back in the summer after NPI’s preelection survey of the August 2021 Top Two electorate showed that his campaign for a fourth term was in big trouble.
That created a general election matchup unlike any in recent memory, pitting a Republican (Davison) against an abolitionist (Thomas-Kennedy).
Davison was also the initial top vote getter in August, but fell to second after being surpassed by Thomas-Kennedy in late ballots. However, Davison’s lead over Thomas-Kennedy this time is much wider than in August, which will make it much harder for Thomas-Kennedy to mount another come from behind victory.
Early general election polling by Elway Research and Strategies 360 suggested the race could be very competitive, with each poll finding only a small lead for Davison. However, our subsequent general election polling found Davison with a nineteen point lead over Thomas-Kennedy and thirty percent undecided, suggesting the dynamics of the contest had changed.
If past counts are any indication, the final tally will show a closer race than what we’re seeing tonight. But it doesn’t look like Thomas-Kennedy has enough runway to change the outcome this time around.
Powerful, moneyed interests have been spending a fortune these past few weeks to get Davison elected, and while those expenditures doubtless helped propel Davison to where she is tonight, she arguably got an even bigger boost out of the parade of former governors, judges, and justices who publicly endorsed her candidacy, from Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire to Bobbe Bridge and Laura Inveen.
When you’re a Republican running for office in a heavily Democratic city, it really helps to have well known Democratic names vouching for you.
Thomas-Kennedy, meanwhile, has been on the defensive for much of the autumn despite having the support of the Democratic Party, owing in part to tweets she posted last year, in which she openly cheered on people who were destroying property in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Davison’s camp has been using the tweets to bash Thomas-Kennedy at every possible opportunity.
Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign created a stirring video to rebut the attacks and urge voters to frame-shift before making a decision, but has been relying on supporters to repost and share it. As Paul Queary explained a couple of days ago, her campaign simply hasn’t had the home stretch visibility that Davison’s has because it has utilized a more unorthodox strategy and tactics.
As of the date of the campaign’s last C4, on October 26th, Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign had spent $348,061.48 of $406,796.94 raised since its inception, with $34,364.42 in liabilities and a balance of $24,371.04. Thomas-Kennedy’s biggest expenses have been for staff and canvassing through Prism West. The campaign has made significant use of democracy vouchers.
Davison, meanwhile, is in the red. She has raised $397,426.26 and spent $370,008.47, has $59,906.50 in liabilities and only $27,417.79 on hand, which means she has a negative balance of $32,488.71. But a lot of her spending has gone into paid advertising during the voting period. On October 14th, for instance, she bought $170,000.00 of cable TV advertising through CN4 Partners.
Davison also got a boost from The Seattle Times Company, which ran an unusual number of editorials like this harshly bashing Thomas-Kennedy as an extremist and unfit for office. The Stranger, meanwhile, has been critical of Davison. It has backed Thomas-Kennedy with an enthusiastic endorsement and friendly coverage.
In a Seattle City Attorney race with conventional dynamics, Davison would probably be losing right now, but this was anything but a conventional race.
I suggested last month that Thomas-Kennedy’s decision to campaign as an abolitionist rather than branding herself as a progressive Democrat helped open the door for Davison to find a path to victory in this contest, and I’ve since heard from several Cascadia Advocate readers who agree with that analysis.
If Davison goes on to win, Seattle will soon have a new City Attorney with almost no relevant court experience and a “not qualified” rating from the Washington Coalition of Minority Legal Professionals. The City Council may soon need to step up to provide more accountability and oversight than it has in the past.