Early votes put Seattle’s 'centrist' City Attorney candidate out front
Initial results were promising Tuesday night for Seattle’s “centrist” political candidates – they led their more progressive opponents in the races for mayor, one at-large city council seat and the race for city attorney that attracted national attention.
In the city attorney race, attorney Ann Davison led by 17 points over former public defender Nicole Thomas-Kennedy — 58% to 41% — after the initial count.
Davison described public safety as top of mind for Seattle voters this year.
During the campaign, Davison and Thomas-Kennedy emerged as philosophical opposites. Davison talked about deteriorating public safety and the importance of paying attention to misdemeanor crimes. Thomas-Kennedy called herself an abolitionist and said if elected she would curtail most misdemeanor prosecutions, arguing that they were ineffective and simply criminalized poverty.
Davison thanked supporters at her election-night gathering in a former fire station in northeast Seattle. One supporter, Steve Murch, said he was preoccupied with the record homicides in King County this year and that concern carried over to his vote in the city attorney’s race.
“We should have compassion for offenders but we also need to center victims too,” he said. “Whether they’re shopkeepers or employers or elderly. Minorities are most affected by the crime and violence we’re seeing right now. So I don’t think it’s particularly compassionate to enable it and to ignore it.”
Another supporter gave just her first name, Becky, and said she feels unsafe walking downtown.
“We need to have people held accountable for crimes they commit, but doing so in a way that is compassionate and giving them the services and help they need, and I think that’s what Ann will do,” she said.
This is Davison’s third run for office; she ran for lieutenant governor as a Republican last year, and challenged Seattle Councilmember Debora Juarez in 2019. In her campaign for city attorney Davison emphasized that she voted for Biden and Clinton in recent presidential elections, but she also said in a video last year that she felt alienated from local Democrats, saying they weren’t addressing homelessness and public safety effectively.
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, a Republican, and State Sen. Mark Mullet, a Democrat from Issaquah who narrowly defeated a more progressive challenger last year, both came to offer Davison support and congratulations.
“It’s national news and I think it signals a seismic shift in the direction of where our community, the greater Seattle area, is choosing to go,” Dunn said.
Mullet said his support for Davison consisted of “basically getting the word out that any attempts to paint her as a crazy far-right Republican just were not accurate.”
Opponents criticized Davison for taking part in a movement last year to officially “walk away” from the Democratic party, which was founded by a Trump supporter who pleaded guilty to criminal charges for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.
On Tuesday Davison said she’s committed to avoiding party politics if elected.
“I do really stress [the position] is nonpartisan,” she said. “And when we lose sight of that, then we again start to focus on what divides people instead of the unifying voice we can have together when we talk about issues as people.”
Davison said if she prevails after all the votes are counted, “we’ll be talking to people in the office, making sure I understand where they see we can make improvement for people, just efficiencies that don’t cost any dollars, but listening to the process of what their wisdom and experiential knowledge will provide. And that’s the first step, for sure.”
Thomas-Kennedy declined interview requests Tuesday. Riall Johnson was a consultant on Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign. He said they are still hopeful that later returns will go strongly her way.
Johnson said he’s alarmed by Davison’s emphasis on essentially getting tougher on misdemeanor crime. He said he has heard the same rhetoric before.
“Talk about more consequences, prosecution and all this stuff – I’ve heard it before. I heard it in the '90s and I’m hearing it now and it’s scary,” he said. “It didn’t work then, and it’s not going to work now. Hopefully regardless of who gets in the office, either Nicole brings something new that’s going to work. Or if Ann wins, hopefully she realizes her policies don’t work and actually listens to the attorneys there who have actually been trying to do something different.”
The city attorney’s office uses numerous specialty courts and diversion programs, working with organizations like Choose 180 as alternatives to prosecution.
Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign issued a statement Tuesday: “With thousands of votes still to be counted, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy's campaign earned 41% of the election night vote demonstrating her message of preventing crime rather than punishing poverty resonated across Seattle.”
She asked for patience as more votes are counted, adding, "I know that when every vote is counted, the people of Seattle will have sent a clear message to the corporate interests that tried to buy this election: our democracy is not for sale."
Thomas-Kennedy’s pre-candidacy tweets about her “rabid hatred of the police” were the focus of mailers paid for by the political action committee Seattle for Common Sense, which received $25,000 contributions from Vulcan, real estate CEO John Goodman, and Steve Gordon who identifies himself on Twitter as “happily retired from Gordon Trucking” and a “supporter of CONSERVATIVE ideas and policies.”
KUOW's Ashley Hiruko, Emily Chua and Lily Turner contributed to this report.