During his nearly two decades in public office, King County Councilman Reagan Dunn has identified himself as a supporter of abortion rights.
In 2005, in his first race for county council, he said “the government should not be involved in this process at all,” and opposed state funding for abortions, but said the government should not interfere in women’s decisions.
When he ran for attorney general in 2012, Dunn said essentially the same thing: “I take a kind of libertarian perspective on abortion — that it should be an individual choice rather than a government issue.”
But on Tuesday, as the Metropolitan King County Council voted on symbolic legislation to reaffirm its support for abortion rights, Dunn was the only no vote.
The apparent about-face comes as Dunn is in the midst of a congressional bid and faces three other Republicans trying to defeat Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier in Washington’s embattled 8th counties of Snohomish, Kittitas and Chelan.
Dunn’s three Republican opponents, Jesse Jensen, a combat veteran and technology executive who ran for Congress in 2020; Matt Larkin, an attorney and business executive who ran for attorney general in 2020; and Scott Stephenson, an Amazon program manager, have all opposed abortion or Roe v. Wade pronounced.
Schrier, who campaigns for abortion rights, is running for a third term after beating Jensen by just over 3 percentage points in 2020.
The district law, which passed 8-1 on Tuesday, contains only two lines in addition to its preamble.
“The Council expresses its support for a woman’s right to reproductive freedom and for Roe v. Wade as the fixed law of the country,” it says. Adopted in response to the US Supreme Court’s draft Opinion Roe v. Wade would overturn if completed, the law also requires the county’s health department to enforce existing regulations on crisis pregnancy centers.
The Seattle City Council also passed similar legislation on Tuesday, declaring its rejection of the Supreme Court’s draft advisory opinion. The vote was 8-0.
Dunn declined interview requests Wednesday. He sent a prepared statement that didn’t seem to clarify his position.
“I support a woman’s right to make her own choice. However, it is not an issue that any branch of the federal government should ever have decision-making authority. The decision must be up to the woman and not our government,” Dunn wrote. “If this is an issue that requires government involvement at all, it should be left to the states to decide, not the Washington DC legislature.”
Dunn did not respond to follow-up questions about his testimony.
With Schrier almost certain to get through the August primary, Republicans will be under pressure to stake more right-wing positions to attract conservative primary voters.
But Democrats will make any Republican candidate’s hostility to abortion rights a major issue in the general election.
“That’s going to be a big issue in this campaign,” said Johanna Warshaw, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “There is only one candidate in this race who voters in Washington can trust to protect their reproductive freedom, and that candidate is Dr. Kim Schrier.”
Larkin has previously addressed Dunn’s past support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage as an issue, describing himself as “the only one who is pro-life.”
Jensen, in a response to a 2020 questionnaire, said abortions should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.
“When the Supreme Court ultimately returns this decision on life to the states, it underscores the importance of state elections this fall,” he said Wednesday.
Stephenson said he supported the overthrow of Roe v. Wade, however, opposes a national abortion ban.
Dunn caused a stir in his run for attorney general in 2012 when he became one of the first prominent Republicans in Washington to advocate for same-sex marriage.
At the time, he compared the issue to abortion, saying that on both issues he preferred individual choices and a less intrusive government.
“Allowing same-sex couples to live the way they want to live is a legitimate stance that exists — or may exist — in the Republican Party,” he said at the time.
He was uninvited from several major Republican Party fundraising dinners across the state, and his campaign as Attorney General quickly attracted a more conservative challenger.