Scott Lindsay, public safety advisor and special assistant to the mayor for police reform, announced his campaign for city attorney on Thursday and will challenge incumbent Pete Holmes, who's running for his third term. Seattle is the only city in the state to have an elected city attorney position.
Lindsay, 39, said he's been considering running for a few months but was hoping for other candidates to join the race. He criticized Holmes for what Lindsay says has been inaction on "the revolving door of the criminal justice system," homelessness, and addiction.
"He's had eight years to do these things. After getting off to a good start, his office has flatlined and frankly floundered," Lindsay said Thursday. "I don't think it's the most pleasant experience to run for public office. But I really think that we need fresh leadership there and it became clear that nobody was going to step up. ... I decided that it was my time."
Holmes has so far raised $41,330 toward his campaign, according to the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission. Lindsay has put in $20,000 of his own money on April 21 for a three-day phone poll, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.
Like Holmes, Lindsay wants criminal justice reform to reduce incarcerations and supports supervised consumption sites to address the heroin and opiate addiction. He was part of the task force that recommended the sites as part of an overall plan for drug treatment and prevention.
Holmes was elected in 2010 running on the promise of police reform after having been the chairman of the police citizen oversight body, the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board. Since then the city settled with the U.S. Department of Justice to create civilian oversight of the police department over its excessive use of force and racial bias.
“We’re going to be better for all of this reform,” Holmes said in an interview earlier this month. “It’s going to show that we can both be a free society and a safe society.”
At his campaign kickoff event earlier this month, Holmes also touted his involvement in some major changes since then—legalizing marijuana with Initiative 502, defending the $15 minimum wage and reducing prosecutions from suspended license cases (or what he called “driving while poor” cases).
Holmes said he expects that by summer the city will launch two programs, one that recovers illegal firearms in domestic violence cases. The second program delays filing charges against low-level offenders who agree to participate in services, known as the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program.
Lindsay, who has been involved in the LEAD program, said on Thursday "it's too little too late" and criticized the city attorney for not implementing the programs sooner.
"He talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk," Lindsay said.
Holmes said he doesn't have jurisdiction on felony crimes, which go to the county prosecuting attorney. Holmes criticized Lindsay for now being in favor of reduced incarceration when in 2015, Lindsay attributed rising street crimes to the prosecuting attorney "raising the bar" for prosecuting on drug possessions, The Seattle Times reported back then.
"Frankly, I have done as much as any city attorney in diversion as you can imagine," Holmes said Friday, "and I have more to do."
Lindsay said mayor Ed Murray endorsed Holmes before the mayor knew Lindsay was running, and at this point Lindsay hasn't asked for his endorsement. Lindsay said he and Murray "are very close" and he's a big supporter. He said he wasn't going to weigh in on the city income tax until the proposal is solidified.
Holmes makes it a point of pride that he sued U.S. president Donald Trump, and Lindsay said he also wants to resist the federal administration’s agenda. Holmes has also been involved in the legal fight against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Uber and Lyft drivers, who are fighting the city’s ordinance that allow independently contracted drivers to unionize.
Before his three-year stint at Murray's office, he was a senior counsel to U.S. representative Elijah Cummings and Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lindsay grew up in Seattle, received his degrees from Georgetown University, and has two children with Port of Seattle commissioner Courtney Gregoire.
Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association who used to supervise misdemeanor practices, endorsed Lindsay in his statement sent Thursday. She said too many people are being incarcerated on the city's misdemeanors and "maintaining the status quote isn't good enough." Reverend Harriett Walden has been active in the fight for police reform in Seattle and also endorsed him.
"I believe he is the right person at the right time to lead progressive criminal justice reform in Seattle,” Walden said.
Updated April 28, 2017, at 12:15pm. This post contains new comments from city attorney Pete Holmes.