Scott Lindsay, a Seattle attorney who’s spent the last three years as Mayor Ed Murray’s public-safety adviser, will run for city attorney.
Scott Lindsay, a Seattle attorney who has spent the last three years as Mayor Ed Murray’s public-safety adviser, will run for city attorney, challenging Pete Holmes.
Lindsay says Holmes hasn’t done enough to help people experiencing drug addiction and homelessness as they cycle through the city’s criminal-justice system, and he says there have been negative consequences in Seattle’s neighborhoods.
While working for Murray, Lindsay has led a downtown crime crackdown and the city’s controversial homeless-encampment sweeps.
“The City Attorney’s Office has a major platform to be a leader on these issues because they engage with thousands of people suffering from homelessness and heroin addiction,” he said in an interview Thursday.
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“The vast majority of the repeat defendants coming through the system for low-level property crimes like car prowls are suffering from addiction and very often homelessness. But the office and Pete Holmes have been absent from the discussion.”
Holmes says he welcomes the competition.
“It’s actually a good thing,” he said. “I have a lot of good things to talk about — the initiatives I’ve launched, the progress we’ve made in this office moving Seattle’s criminal-justice system forward. I have lots more to do and a contested campaign is the best way to explain to voters what you’ve done and what you still want to accomplish.”
Before joining Murray’s office, Lindsay served as senior counsel in Washington, D.C., to Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, and to the House Oversight Committee. He also practiced law in Seattle and D.C. with K & L Gates.
The 39-year-old Seattle native is the husband of Port of Seattle Commissioner Courtney Gregoire and the son-in-law of former Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Holmes is a two-term incumbent who unseated then-City Attorney Tom Carr in 2009 while promising not to prosecute marijuana possession. He ran unopposed in 2013.
A bankruptcy attorney for many years, the 61-year-old served on the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability Review Board before running for elected office.
He’s endorsed by Murray, eight City Council members, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, King County Sheriff John Urquhart and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Holmes was a primary sponsor of the state initiative that led to 2012’s marijuana-legalization vote.
To avoid mandatory deportation of documented immigrants convicted of minor crimes, he lobbied the state Legislature to limit the maximum jail sentence for misdemeanors to 364 days.
“I’ve committed as I have been from day one to trying to address homelessness and address those who have not achieved success through traditional criminal-justice sanctions,” Holmes said.
“I’m comfortable I’ve been pulling out all the stops to address the underlying causes of civil disorder — treating people as human beings while making certain that public safety isn’t compromised.”
Lindsay is announcing his bid at a much later point in the campaign season than is usual, with the deadline for candidates to file less than a month away.
Despite lacking an opponent until Thursday, Holmes has raised more than $40,000 for his re-election, while Lindsay will start with zero dollars in his campaign account.
But the challenger has been cultivating relationships with neighborhood leaders as Murray’s go-to staffer on homelessness and crime. And he has political connections.
Lindsay, who will leave the mayor’s office early next month, says his decision to jump into the city attorney race is unrelated to the challenge Murray is wrestling with.
The mayor was sued last month by a man who says Murray sexually abused him decades ago, when the man was a teenager.
“This has nothing to do with the mayor and is all about my desire to have this public dialogue and actually get the City Attorney’s Office to focus on these issues,” he said.
“I honestly believe that this race is wide open. The City Attorney’s Office has kept a very low profile in the last four years.”
Lindsay says he would seek to divert from jail more defendants battling addiction and mental illness and would try new approaches, such as providing people in jail with access to Buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction.
Lindsay helped develop the 9 ½ Block Strategy that Murray and other local authorities launched in 2015 in an attempt to reduce downtown crime.
He criticized King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg at the time, saying hard-core drugs had become “largely legalized in Seattle” due to Satterberg taking a less aggressive tack.
The strategy sought to disrupt what Lindsay called an “open-air drug market” around Westlake Park. A year later, there were signs of success and also some questions about whether the strategy had pushed problems from the downtown core into other areas.
Recently, Lindsay has led an effort to improve the city’s handling of unauthorized homeless encampments, including the creation of a “navigation team” with police officers trained in intervention and de-escalation techniques.
Lindsay has played a role as city and county officials have moved to address an opioid-addiction crisis, advancing ideas such as the opening of safe-consumption sites.
Lindsay’s early backers include former Community Police Commission co-chairs Lisa Daugaard and the Rev. Harriett Walden.
Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association involved in starting the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program that’s received widespread acclaim, said she believes Lindsay would bring more urgency to the city attorney job.
“We have to do better than the status quo,” she said. “Scott’s commitment to doing the most we can to expand the diversion approach and make it effective is one of the reasons I’m supporting him.”
Holmes is participating in Seattle’s new democracy-vouchers program, but Lindsay will not, saying the program’s campaign spending cap would “stifle a robust public discussion” on the issues in the race.