Reagan Dunn and

Dunn takes strong early lead in election returns for KC Council District 9

Reagan Dunn had nearly 2/3 the vote Tuesday to challenger Kim-Khanh Van for the King County Council.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn hasn’t lost a single reelection campaign since voters put him in office in 2006, and based on initial Tuesday night ballot returns, he’s likely won another against challenger Kim-Khanh Van.

Dunn had 20,008 votes to Van’s 11,343 in that first drop of ballots, or 63.6% to Van’s 36.1%. The results are not final yet, and will be updated over the next few days as ballots continue to trickle in.

Countywide, only 311,424 ballots had been counted as of the first round of returns — a number representing 22.24% of registered voters. The percentage was slightly lower — 20.5% — in the race for the council’s District 9 seat, for which Dunn and Van are vying.

If around 50% of registered voters have sent in ballots this time — a rough estimate based on previous elections — Van would have to mount a shocking comeback to beat Dunn.

The 9th district is a cross-section of urban, suburban and rural voters, spanning from Enumclaw in the southwest all the way to the southern tip of Bellevue.

While council seats are nonpartisan, Dunn is a Republican, and Van is a Democrat.

Dunn’s consistent drumbeat messaging on police funding (increase it) and safe drug injection sites (“absolutely opposed” to them) might have contributed to his success with District 9 voters, who generally skew conservative compared to the rest of King County.

Van, meanwhile, voted to hire police as a Renton City Council member, but said some communities also need alternatives to just adding more cops. She said it should be up to individual communities to decide on the presence of injection sites.

Tuesday’s initial results tracked with the August primary returns, in which Dunn took first out of four candidates with 55.9% of the vote. Van took 21.8 percent at that time.

The other two challengers were Chris Franco, a program manager at the King County Office of Equity and Social Justice, and Ubax Gardheere, the Equitable Development Division Director in the City of Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development.

Both, running on policy platforms to the political left of Dunn and Van, were eliminated from the race in the primary.

Background

A former refugee, immigration attorney and small business owner, Van ran on ensuring equitable recovery from COVID-19, investing in financial literacy and job training programs, expanding healthcare access and knuckling down on youth gun violence and hate crimes. Several local city council members and state congressmembers, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a number of labor groups were among those who endorsed her.

Van critiqued Dunn’s handling of the proposed Cedar River Asphalt Plant, his votes against hazard pay for essential workers and against declaring racism a public health crisis, and his disapproval of the current King County vaccine mandate, which Van supports.

Late in the race, Van also took Dunn to task over a photo prop he used during a Courier-Herald candidate forum.

During a Courier-Herald candidate forum, Van denied supporting the ‘defund the police’ movement, to which Dunn responded: “Yeah, you have supported defunding the police. I mean I have a picture of you marching to defund the police, with a sign to defund the police.” The event was a 2020 vigil and rally, and the person holding that sign wasn’t Van, she pointed out.

Dunn is a former federal prosecutor who campaigned on boosting funding for law enforcement and providing a counterweight against “failed policies in Seattle” making their way into the rest of King County. Dunn said he’d fight to limit regulations on home construction in order to keep housing affordable, and he channeled his past struggles with alcohol abuse into programs like this year’s King County Conference on Addiction Disorders.

Dunn picked up a vast swath of local endorsements, including the entire Enumclaw City Council and numerous members of other local city councils. The mayors of Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Maple Valley, Covington, Renton, Kent, Bellevue and Newcastle also gave him their support, as did the Seattle Times’ editorial board.

The general election results so far also track with Dunn’s previous showings.

In 2005, he was elected with 62 percent of the vote against Shirley A. Gaunt-Smith.

In 2009, he sailed to re-election with 77 percent of the vote against challenger Beverly Harison Tonda.

In 2013, a tighter race still broke for Dunn, who took 58 percent of the vote against Shari Song.

And in 2017, Dunn took 66 percent of the vote against Denice Carnahan.




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