Renton City Councilmember Kim-Khanh Van announced Thursday she would run for the Metropolitan King County Council, challenging incumbent Councilmember Reagan Dunn in the district covering the county’s southeastern corner.

Dunn, a 15-year incumbent, has won each of his four previous elections by at least 15 percentage points.

But as politics, nationally and locally, become more and more polarized, and as King County grows ever bluer, Van is counting on a different result this time.

Her campaign logo proclaims her as a Democrat, even though the County Council is technically a nonpartisan body. Dunn, a former federal prosecutor, has previously run for office as a Republican. The nine-member County Council now has six Democrats and three Republicans.

Council District 9, which Dunn has represented since 2005, is one of the county’s two predominantly rural districts, stretching from south Bellevue, to Enumclaw and east through the Cascades.

Van immigrated to the U.S. at age 6, after her family fled Vietnam as refugees. She would be the first woman of color to serve on the County Council since the mid-1980s, her campaign said.


An immigration lawyer who runs a solo law practice, she attended the University of Washington and the University of Dayton School of Law.

She was elected to a four-year term on the Renton City Council in 2019.

She begins her campaign having raised about $21,000, according to state Public Disclosure Commission filings. Dunn has raised about $93,000.

She is endorsed by a slate of Democratic state legislators, Seattle Port Commissioner Sam Cho and former County Councilmember Larry Gossett, but no members of the current County Council.

In her campaign announcement, she said she wants to stress housing affordability, helping seniors remain in their homes, veterans’ issues and diversity initiatives.

“I’ll bring fresh ideas and hands-on leadership to address the economic, health and housing challenges facing our families and small businesses as we recover from the pandemic and build stronger communities for all who call this region home,” Van said. “For me, public service is simply an extension of my commitment to helping people, just as my family received care and support when we arrived in Washington state.”

Five council seats are up for election in 2021. The only other race to draw a challenger who has raised money, so far, is Council District 5, representing parts of South King County, where Shukri Olow is challenging Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. Olow is a doctoral student and program manager for a family engagement program funded by the county’s youth and families levy.