SEATTLE—Did my city put an end to the chaos with last week’s election?
It took an off-year election for Seattle voters to stop the city’s ever-devolving political scene, where anti-police activists routinely gain more power. Last Tuesday, voters said there is a limit to their tolerance of progressive and socialist tendencies.
In three out of the four citywide races in which a more moderate candidate—by Seattle standards—was running, voters handed victories to them. However, the most closely watched election was both too close for comfort and instructive on where this electorate sees itself and the city.
Nicole Thomas-Kennedy said she would abolish both police and prisons, that she believes property destruction is a moral imperative, and that the criminal justice system is racist. She admits to a “rabid hatred” of cops, once demanding that police officers “eat covid laced s–t” before quitting their jobs.
Until last Tuesday, Thomas-Kennedy also was the leading contender for the office of Seattle city attorney, having just won a three-candidate primary.
Thomas-Kennedy, calling herself an “abolitionist,” ran on a platform of dismantling and abolishing the very office she sought. She vowed not to prosecute most misdemeanor charges, falsely claiming that many of them are merely crimes of poverty where the homeless are punished for stealing a sandwich so they don’t die of starvation. Actually, such cases are rarely prosecuted unless connected to an assault, and even then a prosecution is not guaranteed.
The only candidate standing in Thomas-Kennedy’s way was lawyer and arbitrator Ann Davison. But she was the registered Republican in the officially nonpartisan race for city attorney, making that choice seem equally fringe for Seattle’s progressive voter base.
Ironically, it was the left’s intolerance of the right that caused Davison to switch parties.
Davison is viewed as moderate as well as nonpartisan (she caucused for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and voted for Joe Biden in 2020), making her an ideal fit to lead the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
But her political ideology was a problem, forcing Davison to eschew conservative media outlets or political figures where any association would be exploited to remind the public that she is a Republican.
But this strategy also forced the media to focus on Thomas-Kennedy’s tweets.
Thomas-Kennedy’s Twitter feed offers a terrifying glimpse into the candidate’s worldview. She is not merely vehemently anti-police. She routinely cheered on Antifa violence, including arson. It was all too much for the voters.
Voters sent Davison into office by a margin of 51.7% to 47.5%, making her the first registered Republican to win a nonpartisan citywide race in Seattle in over three decades.
Thomas-Kennedy finally conceded Tuesday morning in a post on Twitter. Analysts said it was nearly impossible for her to overtake Davison’s lead of 4 percentage points, which was down from 17 points the day after the election.
Is the outcome finally a reason for conservatives (or moderate Democrats) to celebrate? Is the police defunding, socialist-embracing movement dead in Seattle? Not even close.
Although you would think this election sent a clear message to local Democrats to moderate their ideas, activists on the left are too angry for inflection. They’re claiming in louder voices that big business and rich donors bought the election.
Thomas-Kennedy complained on Twitter that Davison must have “really needed every cent of that $365k in PAC money.” She cited Seattle for Common Sense, a political action committee that ran ads opposing her.
Failed City Council candidate Nikkita Oliver, another “abolitionist” and local activist, also blamed big money for progressive and socialist losses. Oliver, a lawyer, claimed on Twitter that opponents spent nearly a million dollars “twisting our platform, fear mongering & in some instances literally lying.”
Sympathetic media outlets picked up this narrative.
“Abolitionist candidates were outspent, swamped by negative ads paid for by corporations buying influence, shunned by legacy media and still didn’t get blown out … in an off-year election. And as more young people get engaged/hit voting age, the shift will happen,” Teen Vogue contributor Gennette Cordova tweeted.
Though Cordova calls out “legacy media,” she was silent about her puff piece on Thomas-Kennedy for Teen Vogue. At the time she wrote the article, Cordova was working for a political consultant to the city attorney candidate.
Calling out big-money donors—especially if Amazon money is involved—has rallied the progressive and socialist base in Seattle before. The voters heavily rebuked Amazon’s late pouring of $1.5 million into the 2019 council races; the tech giant also has been cited for costing more moderate and reasonable Democrats their campaigns.
This time around, though, “big business money” hardly poured into campaigns like we saw before with Amazon. Big Labor, on the other hand, dumped nearly $500,000 into the mayoral campaign alone. And progressive candidates ignore their own war chests (Thomas-Kennedy raised over $425,000), not to mention a dedicated base of local activist evangelists.
Activists are reeling from defeats in Seattle. They didn’t just lose the race for city attorney, but also the races for mayor and an at-large council seat. And they have something to prove.
In Seattle, when the activist community gets upset, it tends to turn to theatrics, intimidation, and even violence. Its strategy is already starting to take shape.
It’s been shown to be a winning strategy in Seattle’s higher-turnout elections.
“Seattle’s election showed us moderate dems are far more likely to team up with MAGA’s GOP than unite with the left,” Vice News Senior Producer Dae Shik Kim, also a Seattle activist, claimed on Twitter. “Should be no surprise after seeing [Sen.] Bernie [Sanders] get blocked twice. But here we are.”
There is no significant “MAGA” support in Seattle, of course. Only about 8% of Seattle voters supported Trump over Biden last year.
But Seattle Democrats are loath to be judged by their neighbors as Trump-supporting conservatives. I live here and know these people. It’s a powerful smear that will be used to chastise and bully the left into submission for the following year.
We’ve seen these activists are not above property destruction and arson—or violently commandeering a six-block radius of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
These activists are aggrieved, and they will not change course. They are as stubborn as they are blinded by their ideology and will double down, as they now have something to prove.
And until the midterm elections, there will be three things to watch that will determine the direction of this city.
1. Council member Kshama Sawant, a socialist firebrand, is the subject of a special recall election Dec. 7 in her far-left district. Progressives who were upset with Sawant’s divisive rhetoric started the recall effort.
It won’t be easy for recall proponents: They needed only a little over 10,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, but Sawant received over twice that number of votes in the last election.
2. Davison has an opportunity to fundamentally change the office of city attorney and positively affect the quality of life. Much of the misdemeanor crime that Davison will face is connected to homelessness and addiction.
Despite the left’s talking points, the current city attorney, Pete Holmes, hasn’t criminalized poverty. His office barely charges suspects, leading to a prolific offender crisis. Holmes didn’t survive the primary contest with Davison and Thomas-Kennedy.
If Davison takes the crisis seriously on Day One, charging criminals who need to be charged while offering reasonable assistance to those who will do the work to better their lives, Seattle’s quality of life will improve. Residents and visitors will feel safe walking alone at night again.
3. Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell, a former council member, could make a big difference. If Harrell follows through on his promise to sweep homeless encampments from our parks, sidewalks, and business fronts, the city will be transformed back to what it was.
Voters have been resistant to such sweeps, though, even as tents and related misdemeanors overwhelm their neighborhoods. Still, Seattle voters will be hard-pressed to find fault with a mayor who clears out encampments to make their communities livable again.
Voters will have to suffer from deep denial to pretend that by making the area safer again, Davison is taking Seattle in the wrong direction. It won’t be easy for either Davison or Harrell to implement their strategies.
Although Davison is independent of the City Council, that panel is still overwhelmingly left-wing, with a 6-3 advantage in that regard.
Council members on the left will do what they can to derail her efforts, such as further defunding the Seattle Police Department and making arrests of criminals less likely. They undoubtedly could stop much of Harrell’s agenda by cutting budgets.
But, even depending on the results of the recall effort, what if the country sees a significant shift away from progressive and socialist ideals not only locally but in Washington’s state Legislature or nationally? Seattle’s council members may be forced to moderate their tone if they want to stay in power.
The future of Seattle remains in flux; it’s a fluid situation that could change on a dime. Anyone proclaiming that Seattle has freed itself from the grip of progressives and socialists doesn’t know this city or its voters.
But for the first time in a long time, there’s a feeling of hope. And hope can inspire residents to take this city back.
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