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Originally published August 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 3, 2009 at 5:27 PM

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Editor's note: This race appears on the general election ballot, not on the primary ballot.

The Times endorses

Pete Holmes for city attorney of Seattle

The Seattle Times editorial board endorses challenger Pete Holmes over incumbent Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr. The Times prefers Holmes' view that the people of Seattle are also the clients of the city attorney, not just the city officials themselves. Carr's record on open government is disappointing.

For Seattle city attorney, this page endorses Pete Holmes, who is challenging the incumbent, Tom Carr.

Carr has his attractions. He is smart, aggressive, plainspoken, and a bulldog in defense of the city. But he tends to think of the city as the city government. "Our client is the municipal corporation," he declares. But if government were the only client, his position might well be appointed rather than elected.

"The people of Seattle are the clients," says Holmes.

That makes a difference.

In the Hangartner case, Carr asserted a broad right of governments to deny documents to a citizen by citing attorney-client privilege. Carr took the case to the Washington Supreme Court and won — thereby greenlighting local jurisdictions statewide to curtail the rights of the people, and they have done so.

He acted differently in the recent case of Seattle City Light employees who had organized a gay-interests club. An anti-gay employee demanded the club's e-mail list because it was on a computer server paid with taxpayer money. Carr's office said the list was of public interest and City Light had to give it up. The club sued the city, claiming its members had a constitutional right to privacy.

When the disclosure law was aimed at the government, Carr defended the government; when it was aimed at city employees in their private concerns, he didn't defend them.

Holmes says he would have refused to hand over the club's e-mail list. If the city was going to be sued, he says, let it be sued by the man demanding the list.

We agree with Holmes.

A longtime attorney in bankruptcy cases, Holmes was in the public eye from 2003 to 2008 as chairman of Seattle's police review board. It was a new post, his work was controversial, and he had to fight for it, including a fight over whether the board members would be indemnified from lawsuit.

All this gave him excellent experience to become a city attorney — one sensitive to the people's rights as well as the needs of their government.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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