Contentious race for Seattle city attorney heats up

SEATTLE — The race for the position of Seattle city attorney is heating up as both candidates are facing backlash for controversial choices each made in 2020.

Ann Davison, 53, and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, 46, are vying for the job of three-term incumbent Pete Holmes, who was pushed out of the race after the primaries. Davison switched to the Republican Party last year and made a video for a campaign organized by a Trump supporter who participated in the insurrection. Thomas-Kennedy has repeatedly tweeted about her disdain for police, and encouraged property destruction online.

The two remaining candidates are also presenting very different views for the future of Seattle, which could be significantly impacted by the city attorney’s role. The city attorney’s office has a criminal side that prosecutes misdemeanor crimes, and a civil side that defends the city in legal cases. The city attorney also gives legal advice to elected officials and city departments.

Both recognize voters are deeply unhappy with the state of Seattle, and each believes they’re the one to help fix that.

“My goal is public safety,” Thomas-Kennedy said during an interview about her priorities.

“Make a difference for public safety,” Davison said during her interview.

But the candidates have radically different views on how to make that happen.

Thomas-Kennedy, a former public defender for four years, says she wants to prosecute fewer misdemeanors and instead provide more support for mental health and addiction.

“How do you plan to break the cycle — the revolving door of people going through misdemeanor court?” asked KIRO7′s Deedee Sun.

“I think the way to break that cycle is by ending the use of punishment as the primary focus of how we address those problems,” Thomas-Kennedy said.

She also wants to fund a more robust victim compensation fund, saying, for example, that businesses hurt by crimes like shoplifting should be repaid.

“If we’re going to solve the problem, we need to use the resources we’re currently using on punishment to provide the things that people need and to provide repair,” Thomas-Kennedy said.

Ann Davison is a 17-year attorney who has primarily focused on civil cases.

She plans to build up “non-criminal solutions and interventions” for people who want help, but she makes it clear that prosecuting repeat misdemeanor offenders will be part of her solution.

“It’s about balancing — it’s not a one-sided aspect. It is about looking for justice for victims, and making sure the public is safe that we are not inviting an increase in severity or frequency,” Davison said.

Both candidates have controversial histories on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Thomas-Kennedy has tweeted support for destruction, calling it a “moral imperative.” She has also called police “pigs,” “serial killers,” and “losers.”

You said, ‘I’m way left but at the moment I can only tweet about my rabid hatred of police.’ Do you still feel that way about police?” Sun asked.

“I think what’s important and what’s missing from the conversation about the tweets is the context of the time. There were massive protests happening across the nation,” Thomas-Kennedy said.

She said during the protests in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, she had to buy a gas mask for her nine-year-old daughter.

“No mother, no parent should have to do that. So I was outraged, absolutely,” Thomas-Kennedy said. “I’m able to conduct myself in a professional manner and that’s not the type of rhetoric I will use as our city attorney,” she said.

But she is not apologizing.

“Do you regret or are you sorry for the tweets you put out?” Sun asked.

“I could have deleted or gotten rid of all of those tweets before I ran for office. That probably would’ve been a better idea. But I decided to leave those tweets up because they were symbolic of the outrage I had at the time,” Thomas-Kennedy said. Some of the tweets have been deleted.

The former public defender also filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

“People are questioning online, if you filed for bankruptcy in 2019, how will you be able to handle the city attorney’s budget?” Sun asked.

“The issue is in 2019, my husband had three surgeries. I had to pay for child care with a credit card for a lot of the times I was in law school, and those are issues that face a lot of people,” Thomas-Kennedy said. She said and her husband both chose jobs in service instead of taking higher-paying roles.

“Those surgeries were unexpected and I think it’s very disingenuous to think I can’t manage a budget because of the failure of health care and lack of child care in this country,” she said.

As for Davison, she chose to leave the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party during the Trump presidency.

“What would you say to voters who do hold issue with that?” Sun asked.

“I caucused Hillary Clinton, because I saw what a danger that person (Trump) was going to be. I voted for Obama and Clinton, then Biden last year,” Davison said.

In this YouTube video, Davison explains why she left the Democratic Party.

“The Democrat Party that I knew had started to move so far left, I didn’t recognize it anymore,” Davison said in the video. “I don’t know what they’re doing here. It breaks my heart what they’ve done to our city,” she said.

But the video was part of a #WalkAway campaign launched by Brandon Straka, a Trump supporter who participated in the January 6 insurrection and pled guilty for his role. Davison also has a copy of the video posted on her campaign’s YouTube page.

Davison says she condemned the insurrection on her website, and points back to her values.

“Particularly in the role of city attorney, you need to see someone who is impartial, and non-partisan,” Davison said. “When we are not broad-minded about looking at what will be responsive to things that are not working, that’s a place of stagnation,” she said.

Now each is pointing the finger at the other for being less qualified for the role of city attorney.

“It’s important to see we can collaborate. And I don’t think my opponent has given the demeanor, attitude, or professionalism that would be able to do that in this role,” Davison said. “The anger and hateful language she has put out tells you whether that person is deserving of discretion or not in the prosecutorial role,” she said.

“What I would say to that is I think it’s far more inappropriate to support someone who became a Republican in the Trump years. And who has made videos with Capitol rioters, and that even after the insurrection continued to be a Republican. So I think that’s far more inappropriate,” Thomas-Kennedy said.

Now, it’s up to voters to decide who will defend the City of Seattle.

November 2 is General Election Day for all voters in Washington.