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Councilmember Dunn Faces Democratic Challengers

Councilmember Reagan Dunn announced his re-election campaign late in 2020, where he can be found pictured among other Republicans and even local officials such as Renton City Councilmember Ruth Pérez. He has received the endorsements of other city councilmembers, Randy Corman and Valerie O’Halloran, Mayor Armondo Pavone, and even former Mayor Denis Law. Despite his support from local elected leaders, other local leaders, Kim-Khanh Van and Chris Franco, are running against him.

Councilmember Dunn seemingly remains a strongly partisan advocate on a nonpartisan body. Recently, he suggested that hazard pay during the pandemic should come from the “free market”, and was the only vote on the council against it. This is not a practice he is unfamiliar with. He was also the only vote against the county’s plan for using a new sales tax for housing and shelters, and one of the only councilmembers against treating racism as a public health issue.

On other housing and shelter issues, Reagan Dunn has represented the NIMBYs of his district, and no one else. His endorsements come from the same local players who have helped effectively ban shelters in Renton. This year, his efforts have gotten so bad that he resigned from the Regional Homelessness Authority after facing public backlash for his record against housing and shelter solutions and suggesting he could help the authority collapse. Critics claimed it was not possible for him to act in good faith on resolving an issue he had no interest in seeing a realistic solution for. His challengers Kim-Khanh Van and Chris Franco have the opposite approach.

As a Renton City Councilmember, Kim-Khanh Van was one of two votes against the emergency ordinance that zones out shelters from Renton and begins evicting the DESC facility at Red Lion this summer. The opposition to the ordinance, coming from local and regional advocates, wanted the city to pursue stronger efforts to tackle this crisis. Kim-Khanh Van has also been a vocal advocate on the council on issues of racial justice and equity, recently being one of the main advocates for the AAPI community on #StopAsianHate over the repeated hate incidents that are believed to be partly a result of racial scapegoating and defamation used during the pandemic, such as: “Kung Flu”, “China virus”.

Chris Franco’s priorities similarly include building affordable housing. He is a veteran that has been a community advocate in the region. He also has been involved with other local organizations such as the King County Democrats and Indivisible Washington.

Reagan Dunn’s influence has been waning as the district becomes ‘more blue’ and his ideological views remain inconsistent with the regional crises and unpopular with a more extreme Republican Party. Dunn represents one of the more “moderate” factions of the Republican Party, but it is a shrinking force within the GOP as Trump remains popular with the Republican base. Outside the party, he faces problems with independent and progressive voters on issues faced by marginalized communities.

The impact in this district could help Democrats take an even stronger majority on the council, officially nonpartisan. Today Republicans only control three seats, including Reagan Dunn’s. The district stretches from areas south of Bellevue, through Renton and far south and east into King County. Many of Dunn’s likely voters are in the more rural areas and some parts of the suburbs.

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