Throughout his nearly two decades in public office, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn has described himself as supportive of abortion rights.
In 2005, in his first race for County Council, he said “government shouldn’t be involved in that process at all,” opposing government funding for abortion, but saying government shouldn’t interfere with women’s decisions.
In 2012, as he ran for state attorney general, Dunn said essentially the same: “with abortion, I kind of take a libertarian perspective — that it ought to be a choice of the individual and less about the government.”
But on Tuesday, as the Metropolitan King County Council voted on a symbolic piece of legislation to affirm its support of abortion rights, Dunn was the lone no vote.
The seeming about-face comes as Dunn is in the midst of a run for Congress, facing three other Republicans trying to knock off Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier in Washington’s competitive 8th Congressional District, which covers broad suburban and rural swaths of King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kittitas and Chelan counties.
Dunn’s three Republican opponents, Jesse Jensen, a combat veteran and technology manager who ran for Congress in 2020; Matt Larkin, an attorney and business executive who ran for attorney general in 2020; and Scott Stephenson, an Amazon program manager, have all opposed abortion or Roe v. Wade.
Schrier, who supports abortion rights, is running for a third term after defeating Jensen by just over 3 percentage points in 2020.
The county legislation, which passed 8-1 on Tuesday, contains only two lines, beyond its preamble.
“The council declares its support of a woman’s right to reproductive freedom and of Roe v. Wade as settled law of the land,” it reads. Passed in response to the draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade if finalized, the legislation also calls on the county Board of Health to enforce existing regulations on crisis pregnancy centers.
The Seattle City Council also passed similar legislation Tuesday, declaring its opposition to the draft Supreme Court opinion. The vote was 8-0.
Dunn declined interview requests Wednesday. He sent a prepared statement that did not seem to clarify his position.
“I support a woman’s right to make her own decision. However, it is not an issue that any branch of the federal government should ever have the power to decide. The decision must rest with the woman, and not our government,” Dunn wrote. “If it is an issue that requires government involvement at all then it should be left to the states to decide and not lawmakers back in Washington D.C.”
Dunn did not respond to follow-up questions about his statement.
With Schrier almost sure to advance through the August primary, there will be pressure among the Republicans to stake out further right positions, to attract conservative primary voters.
But Democrats will make any Republican candidate’s hostility to abortion rights a major issue in the general election.
“This is going to be a big issue this campaign,” said Johanna Warshaw, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “There is only one candidate in this race who Washington voters can trust to protect their reproductive freedom, and that candidate is Dr. Kim Schrier.”
Larkin has already raised Dunn’s past support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage as an issue, calling himself “the only one who is pro-life.”
Jensen, in a 2020 response to a questionnaire, said abortion should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.
“If the Supreme Court ultimately sends this decision on life back to the states, it underscores the importance of state-level elections this fall,” he said Wednesday.
Stephenson said he supports overturning Roe v. Wade but opposes a national abortion ban.
Dunn made waves in his 2012 race for attorney general when he became one of the first prominent Washington Republicans to come out in support of same-sex marriage.
At the time, he compared the issue to abortion, saying on both issues he favored individual choice and less intrusive government.
“Allowing same-sex couples to live how they want to live is a legitimate viewpoint that exists — or should be allowed to exist — in the Republican Party,” he said at the time.
He was disinvited from several big Republican Party fundraising dinners across the state and his campaign for attorney general quickly drew a more conservative challenger.