U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier and challenger Matt Larkin clashed Friday night over abortion, inflation, government spending and crime — and, most of all, which one is too extreme to represent Washington’s swing 8th Congressional District.

Schrier, D-Sammamish, who is seeking a third term, repeatedly sought to tie Larkin to the most radical figures of the Republican right, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

“He is not rolling up his sleeves to go to Congress and work together. He is rolling up his sleeves to go to battle,” she said in her opening statement at the debate in Ellensburg, citing a comment Larkin made in the primary about aligning with Greene.

Larkin, the Republican challenger, slammed Schrier over and over for voting in lockstep with the Biden administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, blaming their policies for crime, a border crisis and record inflation.

“We don’t need another two years of the same direction. We need to switch course,” Larkin said.

The rivals were asked early on about news that Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, was assaulted in their San Francisco home by an intruder who reportedly has touted conspiracy theories about the 2020 election being stolen — a false theory promoted relentlessly by former President Donald Trump.

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Both Schrier and Larkin said political figures should tone down the rhetoric.

“Words matter, and words particularly of politicians matter, because they’re heard by so many people,” Schrier said. Larkin agreed, saying, “The volume of noise and hatred right now, especially in politics, is out of control.”

When asked whether Trump bears responsibility for so many Republicans’ belief that the 2020 election was stolen, Larkin declined to specifically name the ex-president, but said “we have a rhetoric that’s out of control, and both sides are to blame.”

Schrier had no problem blaming Trump, saying he has “the biggest megaphone in the country” and that he “does bear culpability” for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. “I was there that day, and it was scary,” she said.

But when asked by a moderator whether Democrats have a double standard on the subject, pointing to Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams’ repeated claims that she lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election because it was stolen by voter suppression, Schrier declined to offer any criticism, saying “I can’t comment on what another politician has said.”

On abortion, Schrier hit Larkin on comments that he’d support a national abortion ban, without exceptions for rape or incest.

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“It’s outrageous. It’s extreme. It’s out of touch,” she said, noting such a ban would override state protections, even in Washington.

Larkin drew the only audible audience reaction of the night — incredulous laughter — when he asserted Schrier’s position was more extreme, claiming she voted for bills that would allow for abortion up to the moment of birth.

“That means if you are a minute from having a baby, and it’s a girl and you wanted a boy, you can terminate that baby’s life minutes before delivery. That’s an extreme position,” Larkin said.

Members of the audience laughed at his statement, leading the debate moderator to ask them to “please keep it down.”

Schrier, in response, said “Mr. Larkin is making things up and talking about things that no woman or doctor would do in order to hide his own extreme position on this.”

Pressed on whether Democratic-led spending bills are to blame for rising prices of gasoline and food, Schrier turned the blame on oil and grocery companies, pointing to their rising profits and accusing them of price-gouging. She defended legislation passed by Congress amid the COVID-19 pandemic as necessary.

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“This was the right response for the peril that our country was in at the time,” she said.

Larkin, asked to name specific areas of federal spending he’d reduce, declined to provide specifics, other than saying he opposed the hiring of thousands of new IRS agents.

“In a time when we’re sliding into a recession, that’s reckless,” he said. Larkin also lashed Schrier for blaming corporations and Russia for rising prices. “I don’t know who she is going to blame next, but at some point, the buck stops with those in leadership,” he said.

Asked about concerns over rising crime and gun violence, Larkin said the solution is “backing our brave men and women in blue by giving them the tools, training and resources they need to do their jobs effectively.”

He did not endorse any specific gun control policy, but said he’d “sit down with anyone at any time to talk about ways to keep illegal guns out of the hands of violent criminals” while balancing “the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Schrier touted her vote for the most significant federal gun law passed by Congress in decades, which included restrictions on gun access for the youngest buyers and domestic violence offenders, and accused Larkin of “ducking and dodging” on the topic.

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Asked about climate change and the wildfires that poured smoke into Western Washington, Larkin focused on forest management, saying the government needs to do more thinning of brush and trees.

He said he supports incentives for private business to pursue clean energy, including nuclear power, but also wants more oil production. “I don’t think we’ll ever get to solely clean energy,” he said.

Schrier said she’d worked in Congress to pass funding for forest health. She said climate change “is one of the most important challenges facing not just our country, but the entire world,” and touted the recently passed climate bill, which will help transition the U.S. “off of fossil fuels and to a clean-energy economy.”

If Larkin wins the hotly contested 8th District race, it could help swing control of the House of Representatives back to Republicans, who have vowed to impede the agenda of President Joe Biden and launch multiple investigations into the administration.

The debate, at Central Washington University’s McConnell Auditorium, was sponsored by the Washington State Debate Coalition, a statewide partnership of media, educational and civic groups.

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Schrier, 54, is running for a third term in the 8th Congressional District. The Sammamish pediatrician in 2018 became the first Democrat to represent the district, defeating Republican Dino Rossi in one of the nation’s most expensive races.

Larkin, 41, helps run his family’s Bothell manufacturing company. Prior to that he worked for a few months as a deputy prosecutor and as an an aide in the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency. He ran for state attorney general in 2020, losing to incumbent Bob Ferguson.

The race has attracted more than $14 million in independent spending from national Democratic and Republican allied PACs.

Ballots for the election have been mailed and must be postmarked by Nov. 8 or deposited in ballot boxes by 8 p.m. that day.

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