Why Is Nobody Running Against Pete Holmes?

As everybody knows, this year’s mayoral race is heated. The competition is so fierce between multiple credible candidates that one, Tim Burgess, has already dropped out, saying that he wasn’t sure he could win.

It isn’t fair, Mayor Mike McGinn may mutter to himself. What about Pete Holmes? Why doesn’t anybody want to take him out?

And those would be valid questions. The filing deadline for candidates running in King County races closed on May 17, revealing not one single challenger to Holmes in the city attorney’s race.

Sure, Holmes is a much more popular guy than McGinn, who stumbled early and often at City Hill The city attorney made his mark by coming out for marijuana legalization Initiative 502 last year. It was a bold move for someone in the business of law enforcement. While former U.S. Attorney and fellow I-502 supporter John McKay got more press attention because of his higher stature, McKay had left office while Holmes was still a working prosecutor. w Of course, Holmes’s enthusiasm for pot legalization went over well in liberal Seattle, especially given the city attorney’s engaging presence at campaign events.

Still, Holmes has not been immune from controversy. Most recently, he got into a fiery spat with the mayor over the city’s stance toward Merrick Bobb, the court-appointed monitor of federally-mandated police reforms. Holmes also opened himself up to criticism by aggressively defending SPD’s policy of not releasing dash-cam videos, which was surprising given his track record of fighting for police transparency.

So there are some issues a challenger could attempt to make hay with—just as Holmes’ made hay with the perceived vulnerabilities of the man he ousted from office, Tom Carr. That race was contentious and high-profile, attracting the interest of the nightlife community and sparking a Seattle Weekly cover story.

But here’s the thing: That 2009 race was exception. So Carr’s predecessor Mark Sidran tells SW, speaking from his home on Vashon Island. Sidran was probably the most controversial Seattle city attorney ever. The so-called civility laws he championed, aimed at cleaning up downtown by enacting restrictions on homeless people and others, sparked a backlash from civil rights advocates.

Yet, says Sidran, who served three terms, “I never had a challenger.” And he says he believes his predecessor never had a challenger either.

“I don’t know why. It’s a good question,” Sidran says. “I suppose that some of it may be that most attorneys can do better financially than an elected job.”

Sidran also points to the power of incumbency, which scares off challengers in other types of races as well. (King County Dow Constantine has little in the way of opposition, for instance.) And there’s an added barrier to the city attorney job, he continues. “While any damn fool can run for most offices, only a damn fool with a law degree can run for city attorney.”

We contacted Holmes this morning to ask about his very uncrowded race, but haven’t heard back yet.

And why should he talk about it, really? With no challengers, he doesn’t have to be put on the spot—about anything. Like Holmes as you may, that’s the problem with a cakewalk of a race.

UPDATE: Pete Holmes left SW a voice mail last night saying he didn’t get the message we sent to the home e-mail address we have on file. He says he’s willing to talk. We’ll keep you posted.

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