Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is launching a campaign for Washington’s 8th Congressional District House seat, challenging Democratic incumbent Rep. Kim Schrier in the 2022 midterms.
Dunn, a Republican whose mother represented the district for six terms, confirmed his candidacy Monday morning in a phone interview.
“I am deeply concerned about the direction of the United States. The president and the Congress back in Washington, D.C., including the incumbent, are making our country weaker, not stronger,” Dunn said.
Schrier, 53, is a pediatrician in her second term in Congress. She serves on the House Energy and Commerce and Agriculture committees.
The Dunn announcement sets up a potential top-tier race for the swing congressional seat that was held by Republicans until Schrier flipped it for the Democrats in 2018, helping the party gain control of the House of Representatives.
Dunn’s campaign will be chaired by former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, whose decision not to seek reelection in 2018 opened the door for Schrier and Democrats to capture the historically Republican-held seat amid a backlash against then-President Donald Trump.
In 2022, Democrats are already facing concerns over poor polling numbers for President Joe Biden, notwithstanding the recent passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure package that will boost spending on deteriorating roads, bridges and ports nationwide.
The spending bill incorporated a measure sponsored by Schrier, the Legacy Roads and Trails Act, which authorizes $250 million for deferred maintenance and repairs on National Forest System roads, trails and bridges, as well as improvements for fish habitat.
Dunn, 50, has been a member of the County Council since 2005. He ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general in 2012, losing to Bob Ferguson. He was reelected to his council position in November and said he’ll stay on the job while running for Congress. A former federal prosecutor, he emphasized combating crime and homelessness during his recent reelection campaign, pushing to boost funding for the King County Sheriff’s Office.
He had previously eyed a run for the 8th District, which was represented by his mother, Jennifer Dunn, for six terms from 1993 to 2005. She died in 2007. He deferred in 2018 to former state Sen. Dino Rossi, who lost to Schrier in a hard-fought race with $30 million in spending.
“We’re going to go take Mom’s seat back in Congress,” Reagan Dunn said Monday.
Johanna Warshaw, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, derided Dunn in a statement, criticizing his vote against a county COVID-19 relief bill and for at one point missing more votes than any County Council member.
“No matter how many extreme or out-of-touch candidates Republicans try to recruit into this race, Washington voters will continue to back congresswoman Kim Schrier because they know her record of working to boost our economic recovery, support small businesses and get people back to work,” Warshaw said.
Elizabeth Carlson, a Schrier campaign spokesperson, said in a statement “no one works harder” for the district than Schrier, saying her priorities include getting the economy on track “and getting more Americans vaccinated – so we can beat this virus once and for all and get life back to normal.”
Dunn is seeking to position himself as a moderate — as his mother was generally viewed — amid what he views as a counterproductive tribalism that defines modern politics.
In an interview, Dunn said he voted for Trump in 2020 but, unlike many Republicans, does not question the legitimacy of Biden’s victory.
Dunn, however, said he would not have voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
That puts him at odds with two of Washington’s three incumbent Republican congressional representatives — Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse — who voted to impeach Trump.
The Jan. 6 rioters were inflamed by Trump’s false claims that widespread voter fraud had cost him the election, and they stormed the Capitol to try to halt certification of Biden’s win, with some chanting to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence. Herrera Beutler and Newhouse, in voting to impeach, said Trump had incited the riot and abdicated his constitutional duty to protect the peaceful transfer of power.
But Dunn said while he views Jan. 6 as “a sad day in American history,” he does not see “compelling evidence” that Trump bears responsibility for the attack. “Things like going down a path of Congress investigating January 6th just creates a further divide in our country,” he said.
Schrier joined the rest of the state’s Democratic representatives and voted to impeach Trump for his role in the riot. She also backed his first impeachment in 2019, over wielding his official powers in an effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden and his family.
Dunn said he believes Washington’s own elections have been proven clean, especially since reforms adopted after the state’s controversial 2004 gubernatorial election. He said all states need to be vigilant in cleaning voter rolls and cracking down on any fraud that is found.
“Just like the war on drugs, you’ve got to keep it up, every day, every year,” he said.
Dunn, who is in recovery from alcoholism and says he stopped drinking four years ago, pointed to waves of overdose deaths in the U.S. and locally, saying “the decriminalization of drugs is creating a massive problem for our society.”
Dunn said he plans to make his own experience with addiction a part of his campaign.
He said efforts to aid homeless people need to include more in- and outpatient treatment options, in addition to housing. He also said on a national scale, more must be done to halt drugs crossing the border.
Dunn contends Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration have used the COVID-19 pandemic “to go on an irresponsible spending spree,” calling the recently passed infrastructure bill too large.
While he said he is vaccinated, including a recent booster shot, Dunn opposes vaccine mandates like the ones instituted by King County and Washington state as too strict. He said the state should have followed many others in allowing regular coronavirus tests as an alternative for workers opposed to vaccinations.
Schrier already faced other announced Republican challengers before Dunn’s announcement, including Jesse Jensen, a decorated Army Ranger combat veteran and tech-firm manager who ran for the seat in 2020, and Matt Larkin, a lawyer and executive at his family’s manufacturing firm.
Schrier’s reelection campaign was sitting on $3.2 million cash on hand as of Sept. 30, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Jensen had about $295,00,0 and Larkin had about $235,000. Dunn’s campaign has not yet filed an FEC report, but the candidate said Monday he’d raised $250,000 in six days since starting an exploratory committee.
Dunn’s decision to announce his candidacy comes despite uncertainty about the precise boundaries of the 8th District for the 2022 elections.
The state’s bipartisan redistricting commissioner recently released its proposed new maps for the state’s congressional and legislative districts, but its agreement came after blowing a legal deadline of Nov. 15.
That leaves the final mapmaking authority in the hands of the state Supreme Court, which has until April 30 to issue its decision.
Dunn said he’s confident the court will adopt the commission recommendation, citing the unanimous support expressed by the redistricting panel’s two Republican and two Democratic members, as well as its bipartisan chair.
The 8th District occupies roughly the middle of the state, crossing the Cascade Mountains along the Interstate 90 corridor. It runs from eastern Pierce and King counties, including Issaquah, Sammamish and Kent, to central Washington’s Kittitas and Chelan counties, including Ellensburg and Wenatchee.
The map agreed to by the redistricting commission would keep that basic structure, while extending to the north and taking portions of Snohomish County along the Highway 2 corridor.
The partisan split would hew closely to the current district boundaries, becoming slightly less favorable to Democrats, based on recent elections.
Republicans have generally urged the court to rubber-stamp the redistricting commission’s proposal, but some national Democrats have urged the court to start over.
“Given the concerns that have been raised about the commission process, we call on the Court to give Washington voters a full redistricting process that is transparent from start to finish, and prioritizes new public engagement,” said Kelly Burton, president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, in a statement earlier this month.