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Longtime Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes might be in trouble

The hottest race in Seattle was a sleeper until Tuesday night.

The conventional wisdom was that the race for Seattle city attorney was not competitive – after all, Pete Holmes had won three times before.

But his incumbency is now in doubt.

Ann Davison, a Seattle attorney who ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor last year, was ahead of Holmes after the first count on Tuesday night, with 34.9% of the vote so far. Holmes came in second, with 32.7%, and attorney Nicole Thomas-Kennedy was a close third, with 32.1%. The numbers held after a second ballot drop on Wednesday afternoon.

The city attorney runs the law department, which defends the city in lawsuits, works on the consent decree at the police department level, and prosecutes theft and misdemeanor assault cases.

Although it’s a non-partisan, bureaucratic position, the city attorney’s race has become a flashpoint, reflecting the ideological divide in Seattle, between those who say we have lost our compass amid a crisis of the unhoused, and those who say misdemeanors are a tool of oppression.

To the right is Ann Davison, who is running with a law-and-order message. She says she'll place much more of an emphasis on victims of crimes.

In practice, that suggests that Davison would want to prosecute more cases, whether that’s shoplifting or drug crimes.

If Davison makes it through the primary Seattle could have a law and order Republican on the ballot, although there won't be an R next to her name, as this is not a partisan office.

Incumbent Pete Holmes came in second as of last night's count. Holmes has been talking about his track record as an advocate for police reform and criminal justice reform.

“I am very, very proud to have been the first prosecutor to halt all prosecutions of marijuana possession in City of Seattle,” he said.

Holmes said he's been doing his part to end the war on drugs and to help address structural racism and mass incarceration.

Coming in third, attorney Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, who is running to the left of both Davison and Pete Holmes.

Whereas Davison says the city is not prosecuting enough cases, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy says the opposite.

“I don't know how we can possibly go forward with misdemeanor protection, when it's so deeply rooted in racism,” she says.

Thomas-Kennedy said she would stop prosecuting misdemeanors like shoplifting. Given that Seattle ballots tend to break to the left as they come in, she is expected to pick up more votes as the week progresses.

We will have a better idea of who heads to the general election come Friday.