In the Hall

City Attorney Tom Carr Gets a Challenger

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While all eyes were on the mayor's race this week, another longtime Seattle politician was getting his first real challenger since taking office.

Police watchdog Peter Holmes planned to announce Wednesday that he would challenge two-term city attorney Tom Carr in the November election. As head of the group that oversees internal police investigations at the city for six years, Holmes frequently clashed with Carr over the release of the group's reports. "The notion that you're protecting good cops by suppressing information about cops who need to be disciplined or discharged is one I've never understood," Holmes says.

For critics of Carr, the news is exciting not just because Holmes is the first person to seriously challenge the city attorney in eight years, but because Holmes is everything Carr is not: a staunch champion of government transparency, a proponent of expanded public-disclosure laws, and a fiscal realist who opposes Carr's costly crackdowns on nightlife, pot smokers, and strip clubs.

"I don't believe that fiscal responsibility and progressive social values are mutually exclusive," Holmes said recently. Sitting in The Stranger's editorial office, dressed in a muted, almost preppy brown patterned sweater and slightly shabby brown leather oxfords, Holmes looked every bit the part of the soft-spoken bankruptcy attorney he is. But when he got on the subject of the city attorney's priorities, Holmes got passionate.

"Look at the economic cost to the city of cracking down on strip clubs," he said. "Look at the cost of cracking down on nightlife. How much money did we spend cracking down on bars in a sting that utterly failed? How much have we spent chasing people smoking marijuana?"

The list of Carr's affronts to progressive Seattle values is as long as the city attorney's record in office. Elected as an alternative to his divisive predecessor Mark Sidran, Carr supported the city's controversial (and since-overturned) car-impound ordinance (the law allowed the city to seize the cars of people caught driving without a license); backed the (also-overturned) poster ban; supported additional exemptions to the state's public-disclosure law; and supported the aforementioned crusades against bars, strip clubs, and pot.

Neither Holmes nor Carr has raised much cash (Carr because he's never had an opponent, Holmes because he's a relative unknown). However, Holmes says he isn't running to make a point. "I intend to run a serious campaign, and I intend to win."

In other election news, Seattle Great City Initiative founder Mike McGinn announced Tuesday that he's running for mayor; former Seattle Sonic James Donaldson was expected to make his own announcement Wednesday; and ex–city council member Peter Steinbrueck remained circumspect about his plans. recommended


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This is great news! Carr deserves a challenge, and Holmes has been a great public interest advocate the last few years.
Posted by Trevor on March 25, 2009 at 1:39 PM · Report this
I am SO excited that Mr. Holmes is running against Tom Carr. This is great news!
Posted by rainyday on March 25, 2009 at 3:43 PM · Report this
Yay! Time to get Carr out of office. Enough is enough.
Posted by liza10001 on March 25, 2009 at 3:44 PM · Report this
carr is a first-rate polarizing figure. I had the displeasure of interacting with him, and he is anti-dislosure,anti-law (if they don't suit his cause) and quite pompus.
He would gleefully trample all over the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights if it meant protecting Seattle employees from wrongdoing. Out with Carr!!!
Posted by Carr is anti-disclosure! on March 25, 2009 at 8:51 PM · Report this
Lawyer elections are tough as challenging the established hegemony of your local court is a quick way to start losing cases.

As such accountability, as in checks and balances, etc, is very tough. It is more important that we have ways of removing bad Judges and bad Prosecutors than it is to be focusing on bad cops - an important, but lesser priority.

These problems are very historic in nature. FWIW, Mayor Nickels career marks a reinvention of these problems under the guise of reform. In my opinion we've ended up with something worse, though to be sure for many minorities that is most definitely not the case.

As to spoiled white women, who cares?
Posted by Douglas Tooley on March 26, 2009 at 6:39 AM · Report this
Transparency is the key word in support of and demand for Pete Holmes to become our lead City Attorney. I have the upmost respect for Pete having worked with him on Police Accountability. He is fair, honest, mentally very quick and he has real integrity. David Goodenough
Posted by David Goodenough on March 26, 2009 at 7:37 AM · Report this
I believe Mr. Carr supported the various ordinances because he had an obligation to do so as the City's lawyer.

Sort of like prosecuting shoplifters.
Posted by Johnnie Green on March 27, 2009 at 10:59 AM · Report this
Yes, Johnnie Green, you tell 'em. Most of the regular Stranger readership are ignorant, dope-smoking, prostitute-patronizing, cop-hating, over-boozing bunch of reprobates. Not to mention this author and the editor being a shoplifter!!! Erica, Puhlease! You should read tghe City Charter before you write an article about a completely ineligible and unqualified candidate for City Attorney such as Holmes.
Posted by policywonk on April 7, 2009 at 3:49 PM · Report this

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