Seattle’s Choice: A Police Abolitionist or a Law and Order Republican?

SEATTLE – In the campaign for Seattle’s next city attorney, both candidates would like to tell you that their past comments do not represent who they are.

One of the candidates, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, is a self-determined “abolitionist” who seeks to overturn the criminal justice system. In last year’s Twitter posts, she glorified those who set fire to a youth detention home, branded the destruction of property a “moral imperative,” and praised the one who apparently detonated the explosive at the police station as a “hero”.

During the same period, her opponent Ann Davison was moving in the opposite direction. As 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 expelled from city politics, Ms. Davison filmed a why-I-not-a-Democrat video for Donald Trump supporter who later stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Initially viewed as long shots that joined the campaign just hours before the application deadline, Ms. Thomas-Kennedy and Ms. Davison proved to be two finalists for the city attorney, representing the city in legal matters and leading a low-level prosecution. criminal offenses. Due to the wide range in their political views, some residents felt unattached ahead of Tuesday’s election. They said they were concerned about the deteriorating polarization in relation to the urgent issues facing the city: homelessness, housing affordability, crime, mental health and police reform.

“I think a lot of us are disappointed with the decisions we have ahead of us,” said Sen. David Frockt, a Democrat who represents Seattle. “I’m careful with both.”

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

Gary Locke, a former Democratic governor who served as President Obama’s ambassador to China, said he did not consider racing through partisan lenses.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to look at candidates and their positions, not just the party label,” Mr Locke said.

Mr Locke condemned Mrs Thomas-Kennedy’s past statements and said her call for less prosecution would exacerbate the problems in the city. He teamed up with another former Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire, to support Ms. Davison.

But other groups and Democratic Party leaders gathered around Ms. Thomas-Kennedy, supported by each Democrat parliamentary group representing the city’s seven legislative districts.

Shasti Conrad, chairwoman of the King’s Democrats, said she was shocked and disappointed to see Mr Locke and Mrs Gregoire return a candidate like Mrs Davison. People can’t call themselves Democrats and support a Republican for the job, she said, adding that former governors simply weren’t in touch with people living in Seattle.

While she understands that some people are concerned about Ms. Thomas-Kennedy’s past comments, she said that when people think about the vision and experience that Ms. Thomas-Kennedy will bring to the office, there is no doubt about who would be a better choice.

“Things seem so corrupt that we need someone who is a visionary and we need someone who will deal with racial justice and take that function in a direction that will bring better results,” she said.

Numerous local elections across the country on Tuesday sparked debates about crime and how to overhaul the criminal justice system. One candidate is running in Seattle’s mayoral election, Lorena González, who last year was among those who supported a 50 percent cut in the police budget, against Bruce Harrell, who advocated a message for more police.

Seattle recorded more homicides last year than in any year in the last quarter of a century, although property crimes prosecuted by the city attorney’s office did not follow a similar rise. In a city that has become one of the most expensive places to live in the country, there has been an increase in visible homelessness, with researchers counting a 50 percent increase in the number of tents in the city center since the pandemic began.

Ms. Thomas-Kennedy was a public advocate who said she was horrified to see the city deal with misdemeanor crimes and prosecute people for things that are essentially poverty crimes. She entered the race but did not expect to compete with the fifth Holmes, who has three terms.

“I thought I was going to have a word in the voter pamphlet about what’s going on in Seattle City Court and how things could be done better, but I expected to be mostly ignored,” Ms. Thomas-Kennedy said. She said she was surprised when she placed first in the run-offs, with 36 per cent of the vote, but said it was proof of how much people crave substantial change.

Ms Thomas-Kennedy said the tweets she sent last year, even before she even considered the candidacy, came at a time when she was angry when police fired tear gas into her neighborhood, forcing her to buy gas. mask for your baby. But she said the comments were inappropriate for someone running for office.

“A lot of these things are just hyperbolic,” she said. “They were very stupid. And I’ll say that more than anything else, I think they were kind of childish. And do I think that’s appropriate for someone running for office? No. Would you still tweet like that? No.”

While advocating for a platform for the final abolition of the criminal justice system as we know it, she said she knows the process of achieving her goals will not happen overnight. It envisages that the city must first set up systems to support health care, education, job training and treatment services.

She told the city attorney’s office that she sees an opportunity to use the office’s civilian department to prosecute corporations that commit wage theft and to protect tenants’ rights. She expects to continue to prosecute things like serious assaults or repeated DUIs because no alternative systems have yet been put in place to deal with these crimes.

Ms. Davison came to the polls from the opposite point of view: that the city has already left prosecutions in too many cases.

Ms Davison said the office has focused so much in recent years on helping people accused of crime and under-representing the interests of crime victims. He argues that the lack of consequences for those who commit crimes makes the city less safe. She also said city residents want both police reform and enforcement.

Although she is a lawyer, she focuses primarily on civil contract law and arbitration. In an interview, she said she has not heard the case in the courtroom since she left a downtown law firm more than a decade ago. But she argued that such work experience is not necessary.

“The role is to be a leader, and you hire experts in the field,” Ms. Davison said.

A year ago, Ms. Davison, as a Republican, ran for state governor and made a video explaining why she was a former Democrat as part of the WalkAway campaign – an effort for Trump. WalkAway campaign founder Brandon Straka pleaded guilty this year to disorderly conduct during the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

As part of the video, Ms. Davison condemned that she felt the Democratic leadership in Seattle had moved too far to the left.

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

But even though she ran as a Republican and advocated Republican approvals, Ms. Davison tried to distance herself from the declaration. He notes that the position for which he is running is technically non-partisan. She said she actually voted for Joe Biden and voted for the Democratic candidate in three previous presidential contests.

Republicans still support Ms. Davison in hopes of having a chance to change what seemed like an unstoppable tide in Seattle. Cynthia Cole, president of the King’s Republican Party, laughed when asked when the last Republican was elected in the city.

After some research, she found a Republican who was mayor in the 1960s. But one recently served as city prosecutor: he left the job 32 years ago.

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