NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

Reagan Dunn concedes defeat: Matt Larkin slated to face Kim Schrier in WA-08 this fall

King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Rea­gan Dunn threw in the tow­el on his bid for Con­gress this after­noon, acknowl­edg­ing that fel­low failed attor­ney gen­er­al can­di­date Matt Larkin has edged him out in the com­pe­ti­tion to take on Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schri­er, D‑WA-8th Dis­trict this autumn.

“I just got off the phone with Matt Larkin and con­grat­u­lat­ed him on win­ning the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry for Con­gress,” Dunn told The Seat­tle Times’ Jim Brun­ner, a vet­er­an polit­i­cal reporter who deliv­ers excel­lent cov­er­age of state pol­i­tics. “He ran a real­ly clean issues ori­ent­ed cam­paign. It was an hon­or­able way to run his cam­paign and I am excit­ed to sup­port him as he runs in the gen­er­al election.”

Con­trary to what Dunn said in his inter­view with Brun­ner, Wash­ing­ton State law does­n’t pro­vide for a Repub­li­can (or Demo­c­ra­t­ic) pri­maries. Instead, Wash­ing­ton uti­lizes a two-part gen­er­al elec­tion sys­tem. In round one — the round we’re in now — the vot­ers win­now the field of can­di­dates down to just two using first past the post vot­ing. The can­di­date with a plu­ral­i­ty gets one spot and their clos­est rival gets the oth­er, regard­less of par­ty. It is there­fore pos­si­ble for the gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot to have two Democ­rats or two Repub­li­cans — or oth­er weird combinations.

Despite Wash­ing­ton’s lack of a par­ty pri­ma­ry — which the­o­ret­i­cal­ly ought to have been help­ful to a con­ven­tion­al Repub­li­can can­di­date like Dunn at risk of being scorned by the ultra MAGA right wing — the coun­cilmem­ber was­n’t able to secure enough sup­port to get past Matt Larkin, con­sid­ered by many observers we’ve spo­ken with to be the “Trump­i­est” can­di­date of the Repub­li­can field, which also includes com­bat vet­er­an Jesse Jensen, Schri­er’s 2020 gen­er­al elec­tion opponent.

As of press time, Schri­er had 47.67% of the vote, Larkin had 17.07%, Dunn had 14.62%, and Jensen had 13.02%. One the Repub­li­can, Scott Stephen­son, had 3.17%. The oth­er can­di­dates set to be elim­i­nat­ed were all under 1%.

Dunn present­ly trails Larkin for the sec­ond spot by 4,048 votes.

Schri­er cur­rent­ly has more votes than Larkin, Dunn, and Jensen togeth­er, which Democ­rats find encour­ag­ing. The three top Repub­li­cans com­bined have 73,882 votes, which is sev­er­al thou­sand less than Schri­er’s 78,788 votes.

And, alto­geth­er, the votes going to the declared Democ­rats (Schri­er, Emmet Ward, Kei­th Arnold) are ever so slight­ly more than those going to the declared Repub­li­cans (Larkin, Dunn, Jensen, and Scott Stephenson):

As of 08/04/2022 5:20 PM

  • 81,659 votes in WA-08 for Democrats
  • 81,530 votes in WA-08 for Republicans

“I am proud of the cam­paign we ran, and I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to serve this area on the King Coun­ty Coun­cil,” Dunn said in a state­ment pub­lished on his cam­paign web­site, which was swift­ly updat­ed after he decid­ed to concede.

“I will keep fight­ing for the val­ues I ran on, sup­port­ing our law enforce­ment heroes and ensur­ing fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty. I will con­tin­ue in my com­mit­ment to be a voice of rea­son on the Coun­ty Coun­cil, and push back against extreme and irre­spon­si­ble poli­cies. Now more than ever, we need local lead­ers in King Coun­ty who will stand up for what’s right, not what’s polit­i­cal­ly expedient.”

Dunn may be exit­ing stage right with a pos­i­tive atti­tude in pub­lic, but this cer­tain­ly isn’t the out­come that he was hop­ing for, or had expected.

Bor­row­ing a Bushism (he ini­tial­ly won his coun­ty coun­cil seat in the Bush years), Dunn adver­tised him­self as “com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­v­a­tive who leads the Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion against failed poli­cies spread­ing from Seat­tle to our sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hoods.” He was endorsed by Schri­er’s pre­de­ces­sor Dave Reichert, who accept­ed a posi­tion chair­ing Dun­n’s campaign.

Dunn began his cam­paign with gus­to, pro­nounc­ing him­self the frontrunner.

“The first poll to test the new­ly con­fig­ured 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict last week showed Dunn eas­i­ly lead­ing a field of Repub­li­can can­di­dates in the pri­ma­ry by more than a 2–1 mar­gin,” Dun­n’s cam­paign said in a Novem­ber 29th, 2021 press release, with­out elab­o­rat­ing or prop­er­ly cit­ing the ref­er­enced research.

“Rea­gan Dunn is eas­i­ly our best chance for Repub­li­cans to win the 8th Dis­trict, and I whole­heart­ed­ly endorse him in this race,” a state­ment from Reichert includ­ed in that same press release read. Reichert car­ried two incar­na­tions of the 8th in sev­en con­sec­u­tive elec­tions, from 2004 through 2016.

Reichert retired as of the 2018 cycle. Democ­rats unit­ed behind Schri­er after a spir­it­ed and live­ly intra­party com­pe­ti­tion of their own four years ago, which saw Schri­er pre­vail over Jason Rit­tereis­er and Shan­non Had­er. They imme­di­ate­ly threw their sup­port to Schri­er and she tri­umphed over Dino Rossi in the gen­er­al election.

Dunn pro­ject­ed con­fi­dence that he would avoid Rossi’s fate.

“There is no doubt – Rea­gan is the Repub­li­can fron­trun­ner, and he is ready to flip the 8th from blue to red,” a Dunn email blast dat­ed Tue, Apr 26, 2:15 PM said.

“Rea­gan is also the only Repub­li­can can­di­date who has a record of win­ning elec­tions and the only one who leads the Demo­c­rat incum­bent in a head-to-head match-up,” the email added. “The most recent poll of the new 8th Dis­trict found vot­ers pre­fer Rea­gan Dunn to Kim Schri­er by four points.”

“We can win in Novem­ber and help flip the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from blue to red – but we need your sup­port right now.”

“Rea­gan is the front-run­ner in this race to retire Kim Schri­er. He raised more from donors than all oth­er Repub­li­cans com­bined last quar­ter, has more cash on hand, and leads them by more than a 2–1 mar­gin in the lat­est poll,” anoth­er email from “Team Dunn” two days lat­er (Thu, Apr 28, 11:09 AM) said.

“But we can’t take our foot off the gas! Nan­cy Pelosi knows the incum­bent is in trou­ble and her deep-pock­et­ed allies are pour­ing mon­ey into her campaign.”

By July, Dun­n’s cam­paign was sound­ing more pan­icked than confident.

“The attacks on Rea­gan have begun,” said a Thu, Jul 7, 5:19 PM mes­sage from Car­son Coates with Dun­n’s cam­paign, which went on to say:

We knew they were com­ing but it’s worse than we thought.

They’re false, vicious, mean-spir­it­ed and per­son­al and have no place in pol­i­tics. There are sev­er­al trou­bling rea­sons why we’re so sur­prised by the attacks:

  1. They’re from our Repub­li­can oppo­nent. The same Repub­li­can oppo­nent that polling shows doesn’t come close to defeat­ing Kim Schri­er in the Gen­er­al Election.
  2. They’re disin­gen­u­ous – and use sev­er­al out of con­text quotes (though we shouldn’t be sur­prised about that) to attack Rea­gan over his per­son­al recov­ery journey.
  3. They are per­son­al – Rea­gan has a life-long con­ser­v­a­tive vot­ing record and is the only Repub­li­can run­ning who has actu­al­ly held elect­ed office. The attacks don’t try to pre­tend he can’t win or won’t be a reli­able leader. Rather, the deceit­ful attacks are on his per­son­al life.

Ronald Rea­gan famous­ly ref­er­enced the “Eleventh Com­mand­ment” through­out his polit­i­cal career: “Thou shalt not speak ill of anoth­er Repub­li­can.” These attacks are a par­tic­u­lar­ly egre­gious vio­la­tion of that rule and do noth­ing but frac­ture our par­ty and help Kim Schri­er and Nan­cy Pelosi stay in power.

We must fight back and defend Rea­gan. His cam­paign is focused on actu­al­ly turn­ing around this Coun­try by restor­ing law and order, reign­ing in reck­less infla­tion-caus­ing spend­ing, and restor­ing America’s ener­gy independence.

The afore­men­tioned attack ads were unleashed by a super PAC back­ing Jesse Jensen, Dunn and Lark­in’s rival, who lost to Schri­er in 2020. The PAC, equipped with plen­ty of funds by wealthy right wingers, con­tend­ed that Dun­n’s “neg­a­tives” made him the worst pos­si­ble choice to go up against Schrier.

Jensen’s back­ers may not have suc­ceed­ed in get­ting Jensen through to the gen­er­al, but they def­i­nite­ly may have played a role in sink­ing Dun­n’s can­di­da­cy and cre­at­ing an open­ing for Matt Larkin to slip past his rivals.

On Mon­day of this week (Mon, Aug 1, 12:28 PM), Dun­n’s cam­paign made a final, urgent appeal for funds to Dun­n’s email list. Gone were any ref­er­ences to Dunn being a fron­trun­ner, or eas­i­ly lead­ing the field by a two-to-one margin.

We aren’t going to mince words – this race will be very close. A mere hand­ful of vot­ers may decide whether Rea­gan makes it to the Gen­er­al Elec­tion. Your vote mat­ters. The votes of your friends and fam­i­ly mat­ter. And we hope Rea­gan can count on them.

Respect­ed con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio host Lars Lar­son recent­ly rec­om­mend­ed Rea­gan as the Repub­li­can can­di­date to take on Kim Schri­er in the 8th. The endorse­ment reads:

“Rea­gan is a great GOP can­di­date, with reli­able, con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues. He’s done a lot as a mem­ber of the King Coun­ty Coun­cil and looks like he would bring that same reli­a­bil­i­ty to the capi­tol build­ing, which earned him Lars’ thumbs up.”

If you’ve yet to decide which can­di­date to sup­port in the 8th, we want to high­light that Rea­gan is the only Repub­li­can can­di­date with a proven con­ser­v­a­tive record. You don’t have to wor­ry about whether Rea­gan will do what he says once in Congress.

Reagan’s con­ser­v­a­tive record – from con­sis­tent­ly vot­ing against tax increas­es to stead­fast­ly sup­port­ing our police – while serv­ing on one of the most far-left coun­ty coun­cils in the nation proves his com­mit­ment to vot­ers. You can rely on Reagan.

But as the ini­tial results came in on Tues­day night, it was appar­ent that many Repub­li­can vot­ers had con­clud­ed they could­n’t or did­n’t want to rely on Rea­gan Dunn to go up against Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schri­er this autumn.

It’s not the first time Dunn has fall­en short for high­er office.

Ten years ago, as men­tioned, Dunn lost his cam­paign to suc­ceed fel­low Repub­li­can Rob McKen­na as Wash­ing­ton State’s Attor­ney Gen­er­al. The post went instead to Dun­n’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic King Coun­ty Coun­cil col­league Bob Fer­gu­son, who Repub­li­cans pro­ceed­ed to leave unchal­lenged in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. (Fer­gu­son’s only oppo­nent was a Libertarian.)

In 2020, Larkin took on Fer­gu­son, but was eas­i­ly defeated.

Larkin will now get the ben­e­fit of a more uni­fied Repub­li­can Par­ty for phase two of his cam­paign for Con­gress. Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Chair Caleb Heim­lich, who has had very lit­tle to be hap­py about this week, has already bus­ied him­self adver­tis­ing a “Flip the 8th BBQ” in Cov­ing­ton next Tuesday.

“It has been a tough Pri­ma­ry,” a recent email from Heim­lich admit­ted, “but regard­less of who we sup­port­ed in the Pri­ma­ry, we must unite behind the win­ner to achieve our com­mon goals. This is why we are host­ing our upcom­ing ‘Flip the 8th’ BBQ in Cov­ing­ton, WA on Tues­day, August 9th. We will cel­e­brate the pri­ma­ry win­ner and unite behind their can­di­da­cy to win in November.”

Democ­rats are already plan­ning to make Lark­in’s staunch, fierce oppo­si­tion to repro­duc­tive rights a major issue this fall. Recent research shows that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, includ­ing vot­ers in the 8th Dis­trict are extreme­ly sup­port­ive of pro­tect­ing Amer­i­cans’ right to make their own repro­duc­tive deci­sions.

Schri­er’s cam­paign char­ac­ter­izes Larkin as an extrem­ist and says she is ready to wage a strong, vig­or­ous cam­paign to keep the dis­trict Democratic.

“I have dri­ven thou­sands of miles, host­ed near­ly 100 town halls, and have been deliv­er­ing on the needs of this dis­trict. This com­mu­ni­ty knows me, and knows that I am out there lis­ten­ing and advo­cat­ing for them every day,” said Schri­er in a state­ment sent to media out­lets after Dun­n’s concession.

“I have proven to be an inde­pen­dent and effec­tive voice for the peo­ple of the Eighth Dis­trict, and will always stand up for a wom­an’s right to make her own health care deci­sions. With the loom­ing threat of a nation­wide ban on abor­tion from Repub­li­cans in the oth­er Wash­ing­ton, we can­not leave the fate of this dis­trict, or this coun­try, in the hands of my anti-choice opponent.”

The August Top Two elec­tion is due to be cer­ti­fied on August 16th. Not long after that, elec­tions offi­cials will begin prepar­ing bal­lots to go out to over­seas and mil­i­tary vot­ers for the Novem­ber 8th gen­er­al election.

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