Seattle's Choice: Police Abolitionist or Law and Order Republican?

SEATTLE – In the campaign to become the next Seattle city attorney, both candidates would like to tell you that their past remarks are n...


SEATTLE – In the campaign to become the next Seattle city attorney, both candidates would like to tell you that their past remarks are not representative of who they are.

One of the candidates, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, describes herself as an “abolitionist” who seeks to turn the criminal justice system upside down. In Twitter posts last year, she celebrated those who set fire to a youth detention center, called the destruction of property a “moral imperative” and praised whoever apparently set off an explosive in a police station as a “hero”.

During the same period, her opponent, Ann Davison, was advancing in the opposite direction. A former Democrat, she declared herself a Republican appalled by what she saw as a lack of order in Seattle. In a city where Republicans have long been excluded from municipal politics, Davison filmed a video why I’m not a Democrat for a Donald Trump supporter who then stormed the Capitol on Jan.6.

Originally seen as long shots that joined the campaign just hours before the filing deadline, Ms Thomas-Kennedy and Ms Davison became the two finalists to be the city attorney, who represents the city in legal affairs and leads prosecution of crimes. The sheer diversity of their political views left some residents feeling disconnected ahead of Tuesday’s election. They said they were concerned about the growing polarization surrounding the pressing issues facing the city: homelessness, housing affordability, crime, mental health and police reform.

“I think many of us are disappointed with the choices that lie ahead,” said State Senator David Frockt, a Democrat who represents Seattle. “I am suspicious of both.”

The campaign sparked a conversation about what it means to be a Democrat in a city where eight of nine council members are Democrats – the only departure being a socialist.

Gary Locke, a former Democratic governor who worked as President Obama’s ambassador to China, said he did not view the race through a partisan lens.

“Sometimes you have to look at the candidates and their positions, not just party etiquette,” Locke said.

Mr Locke denounced Ms Thomas-Kennedy’s past statements and said her call for fewer prosecutions would exacerbate problems in the city. He joined with another former Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire, in supporting Ms Davison.

But other Democratic Party groups and leaders have rallied around Ms. Thomas-Kennedy, with each of the Democratic caucuses representing the city’s seven legislative districts endorsing her.

King County Democrats chair Shasti Conrad said she was shocked and disheartened to see Mr Locke and Ms Gregoire backing a candidate like Ms Davison. People can’t call themselves Democrats and approve a Republican for the job, she said, adding that the former governors just weren’t in touch with the people of Seattle.

While she understands that some people are concerned about Ms. Thomas-Kennedy’s past remarks, she said when people consider the vision and experience Ms. Thomas-Kennedy would bring to the office, there is no doubt as to who would be the best choice. .

“Things seem so broken that we need someone who is visionary and someone who is going to tackle racial equity and steer this office in a direction that will work better,” she said. declared.

Many local elections across the country on Tuesday were shaped by debates over crime and reform of the criminal justice system. Seattle’s mayoral election features a candidate, Lorena González, who last year was among those who approved a 50 percent cut to the police budget, against Bruce Harrell, who campaigned on a message for more police.

Seattle recorded more homicides last year than any year in the past quarter century, although property crimes that would be dealt with by the city attorney’s office have not followed an increase similar. In a city that has become one of the country’s most expensive places to live, there has been an increase in visible homelessness, with researchers counting a 50% increase in tents in the urban core since the start of the crisis. pandemic.

Ms Thomas-Kennedy was a public defender who said she was dismayed at how the city was handling petty crime, prosecuting people for things that were essentially poverty crimes. She entered the race but didn’t expect to be competitive against three-term holder Pete Holmes.

“I thought I would have some blurb in the voter pamphlet on what’s going on in Seattle City Court and how we could do it better, but I largely expected to be ignored, ”Ms. Thomas-Kennedy said. She said she was surprised to see herself come out on top in the primary, with 36% of the vote, but said it was proof of how much people yearn for substantial change.

Ms Thomas-Kennedy said the tweets she sent out last year, before even considering a candidacy, came at a time when she was angry after police fired tear gas in her neighborhood, forcing her to buy a gas mask for her child. But she said the remarks were inappropriate for someone running for office.

“A lot of these things are just hyperbolic,” she said. “They were very casual. And I will say that I think, more than anything, that they were rather childish. And do I think it’s appropriate for someone running for office? No. Would I tweet like this more? No.”

As she campaigns on a platform to eventually abolish the criminal justice system as we know it, she said she knows the process to achieve her goals will not happen overnight. She envisions that the city must first have systems in place to support health care, education, vocational training and treatment services.

For the city attorney’s office, she said she saw an opportunity to use the civil division of the office to prosecute companies that committed salary theft and to protect the rights of tenants. She expects to prosecute cases like aggravated assault or repeated impaired driving, as there are no alternative systems in place to tackle these crimes yet.

Ms. Davison came to the election from the opposite point of view: that the city was already letting lawsuits slide in too many cases.

Ms Davison said the office had focused a lot in recent years on supporting those accused of crimes and did not sufficiently represent the interests of victims of crime. She argues that the lack of consequences for those who commit crimes makes the city less safe. She also said that the townspeople want both police reforms and law enforcement.

Although she is a lawyer, her primary focus is on civil contract law and arbitration. She said in an interview that she hasn’t done a case in a courtroom since leaving a downtown law firm more than a decade ago. But she argued that such experience is not necessary for the job.

“The role is to be a leader and you hire subject matter experts,” Ms. Davison said.

A year ago, Ms Davison was running for the state’s lieutenant governor as a Republican and recorded a video explaining why she was a former Democrat as part of a ‘WalkAway’ campaign – a pro effort. -Trump. The founder of the WalkAway campaign, Brandon Straka, pleaded guilty this year to disorderly conduct during the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol.

As part of the video, Ms Davison denounced what she called Democratic leadership in Seattle moving too far to the left.

“I can’t be a part of this anymore,” she said. On Twitter, she denounced that the far left was pulling the city towards “Marxism”. She joined conservative efforts to repeal a law on sex education.

But even though she was running as a Republican and courting Republican endorsements, Ms Davison tried to distance herself from the statement. She notes that the office she is running for is technically non-partisan. She said she actually voted for Joe Biden and voted for the Democratic candidate in the previous three presidential races.

Republicans still back Ms. Davison, hoping she gets a chance to turn what seemed like an unstoppable tide in Seattle. King County Republican Party chair Cynthia Cole laughed when asked when the last Republican was elected in town.

After some research, she found a Republican who served as mayor in the 1960s. But one of them served as the town’s lawyer more recently: he left office 32 years ago.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Seattle's Choice: Police Abolitionist or Law and Order Republican?
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