In Pete Holmes’ three terms as city attorney, he has failed Seattle on multiple fronts. Voters should replace him with Ann Davison, the only candidate who understands that the office should take a stronger role in helping restore Seattle’s safety for all.
Davison, a Seattle attorney and arbitrator, has the best sense of the values the city attorney’s office should represent, and a deep sense of civic engagement that motivated her previous campaigns for city council and lieutenant governor.
In an interview, she offered a clear-eyed assessment of Seattle’s current shortcomings and a need for a strong city attorney to stand up for public good. Davison’s vision is to help restore a lawful city with real compassion, not exacerbating the plights of people struggling with poverty, mental-health or substance-use disorders. Rather, she supports an approach with services and interventions that help troubled individuals but also keep the public safe. And she would not shrug off the challenge of using the city attorney’s authority to step in with sensitivity when behaviors endanger other people.
“We have to set limits,” she said, “because we have to protect everyone in the public.”
Holmes told voters in 2009 his mission was “saving money and protecting our quality of life.” The facts indicate that was just talk.
Under Holmes, the city Law Department budget went from $18.2 million in 2010 to $34.2 million in 2020. So much for “saving money.” As for “quality of life,” consider the scores of prolific offenders, enabled by Holmes’ leniency, to return, time and again, to cycles of committing thefts and assaults after brief, if any, punishment.
He also has been no advocate for transparency. In 2020, he backed a Seattle Police subpoena of media entities’ unpublished protest photos and video. July 9, the city countersued The Seattle Times after the newspaper went to court to seek public records about top city officials’ deleted text messages from the 2020 period when Seattle police clashed with street protesters.
Davison sees it. Voters should too.
“We need to reconcile the fact that we are failing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, as well as the basic functions of protecting public health and safety,” Davison said. “And so, the last 12 years of what we had is not working. We can see that the programs that are there, although many are well-intentioned, we’re not seeing the measurable outcomes that we need to have for the public, and for those who are the most vulnerable, needing our help.”
The city attorney independently prosecutes misdemeanors and represents the city’s legal interest in civil matters. Davison must reform the office on both fronts.
Asked about the city’s problems with street crime, including rashes of catalytic-converter thefts and retail shoplifting, Holmes blamed, by turns: city police for not bringing him enough cases, businesses for poor theft prevention and statutes that take many offenses out of his hands. He conceded that more cases per year were filed before he took office, but then cast rhetorical fog, questioning what an appropriate rate might be.
Candidate Holmes of 12 years ago sold a different vision:
“Pete will emphasize tough sentencing for real criminals — those who threaten our personal safety and property,” his voters pamphlet candidate statement said then.
Those voters who elected him that year had good reason to hope Holmes could lead meaningful reform. He had been a serious police accountability activist, and the city attorney’s independence gives the office power to stand up for the public good in court. Yet Holmes shrank from that role in office, putting in little apparent effort to help improve weak accountability measures of the 2018 police contract a federal judge found insufficient.
This office needs an airing out, not a fourth term of shortsighted service. Davison faces long odds; Holmes took 74.5% of the vote in 2017. He has not earned that approval again. Challenger Nicole Thomas-Kennedy’s promise of even more prosecutorial leniency would double down on some of Holmes’ worst ideas.
Davison is the only candidate who can bring a new day for the city attorney’s office.