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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.