Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and King County Council member Reagan Dunn.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and King County Council member Reagan Dunn.

Reagan Dunn signs on with Ron DeSantis' Washington campaign team

King County Council member says DeSantis is the ‘future of the Republican party’

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn has signed on with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Washington state presidential campaign team.

The announcement came via an Oct. 3 press release, which also named Legislative District 31 Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, and a dozen other Washington state Republicans on the leadership team. Dunn’s District 9 sprawls from southern Bellevue through the East Hill of Kent to the Enumclaw Plateau.

“I’m supporting the only candidate in this race who is focused on the future,” Dunn said in the press release. “We can’t afford to relitigate 2020. Ron DeSantis has led the charge on all these issues that matter to Americans. I’ve seen what he’s done in Florida, and now I’m ready to see what he can do for the country as president.”

While the former federal prosecutor signing onto another Republican’s presidential campaign shouldn’t be surprising, several of Dunn’s political stances over the years — stances that even went against the grain of his party and helped cement his image as a moderate conservative in deep-blue King County — conflict with parts of DeSantis’ platform.

For example, DeSantis has received heavy bipartisan criticism for his moves against the LGBTQ community in his state: He signed one bill coined the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, which prevents Floridian educators from teaching students about sexual orientation and gender identity outside of sex-ed classes, a second bill that bans gender-affirming care, and a third that criminalizes transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity, among other legislation.

Meanwhile, back in 2008, Dunn and the King County Council added gender identity and expression to the anti-discrimination section of the County Charter.

And in 2012, Dunn went on the record supporting gay marriage, a year before then Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill legalizing it in Washington,; he noted to the Seattle Times that this fits with his personal philosophy toward government — as in, less of it.

“I think we’re going to view this the same way we do that people of some races were once forced to sit in the back of the bus, or to use separate drinking fountains,” he said at the time.

The result? He was disinvited to big Republican dinners, and the state GOP came up with another conservative challenger to run against Dunn in the WA attorney general race (who Dunn handily primaried, despite the “blowback”).

And in 2020 through 2023, Dunn’s name has appeared on the County Council’s proclamations supporting Pride Month in the county.

“My positions remains unchanged,” Dunn said in a recent interview. “Ron DeSantis has his positions. I don’t agree with all of them, but I still believe he is by far the best candidate for Republicans to put forward because of his integrity and his willingness to lead and his really broad experience that would make him well-qualified to be president.”

His answer was the same for the topics of abortion access and COVID-19.

Regarding the former, DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban bill in Florida and has said that he would support a federal 15-week abortion ban; as for the latter, DeSantis’ original stances toward enacting “some of the most stringent government-enforced [COVID-19] restrictions of anywhere in the county” and strong support of the COVID vaccine, according to Forbes, has flipped, with his administration now recommending those under the age of 65 do not get the updated vaccine. He also does not support continuing to use federal funds to purchase additional COVID vaccines.

In comparison, Dunn recently shocked county voters — especially on the left — when he declined to sign a 2022 King County Council resolution in support of abortion rights, despite his public support of abortion access in the past, in light of the leak of a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

Since then, Dunn has held in multiple interviews that his stance toward abortion access remains unchanged, and clarified in a recent interview that he took issue with “hyper-partisan language” in the resolution.

“The resolution was drafted by [U.S. Rep. Kim] Schrier’s people, designed to create a wedge to make it too out of reach for me to vote for, including a bunch of inflammatory statements about the Supreme Court,” Dunn said recently, though he was unable to recall specifics at that time.

The resolution noted, in part, that “a recently leaked draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization indicates that the six conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court might imminently overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, leaving it to individual states to allow or ban abortions” and that “the overturn of Roe v. Wade opens the door to other challenges to privacy rights, such as same-sex marriage and access to contraception, and... women cannot be truly free and equal members of our nation if they cannot have autonomy over their own bodies...”

“I continue to support Washington state law, and have always supported Washington state law,” he said. “What I believe, however, is that it should be a state’s rights decision.”

As for public health, Dunn was at odds with some state mandates put forth by Gov. Jay Inslee, but appeared to always be supportive of Public Health — Seattle & King County; he proposed legislation that requested additional COVID-19 vaccines for King County, hosted at least one (virtual) town hall focusing on the vaccine, and supported the masking so long as COVID rates were high.

At the end of the day, Dunn doesn’t see much local risk when it comes to signing on with DeSantis.

“I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. People know that I am a Republican and that I reach across the aisle to try and find common solutions,” he said. “But I don’t know another elected official in the country that I agree with 100% of the time, and the governor and I don’t agree on every issue either... but I think that Ron DeSantis is the better candidate for the future of the Republican party.”

A DIFFERENT FOCUS

While LGBTQ rights, abortion access, and public health are topics that deep-blue King County voters care about greatly, Dunn hopes county residents will also pay attention to other aspects of the Florida governor’s campaign that could sway them in his direction.

“Keeping taxes and energy prices low are a principal part of his platform,” Dunn said. “I think people are feeling the effects of inflation, they’re feeling the effects of the economy, and I think they’re going to like those positions significantly.”

He also pointed to DeSantis’ focus on securing the southern border in order to mitigate the nationwide epidemic of drug overdoses. Last year, there were over 700 fentanyl deaths alone recorded by King County.

“He is a strong border-security governor, and I think that is something that is going to be appealing to a lot of people, particularly in southeast King County,” Dunn continued.

Finally, DeSantis’ focus on law enforcement should also turn some heads, Dunn said, noting a climbing regional murder rate: The Seattle Times reported late September that so far this year, there were 114 homicides committed in King County, just shy of last year’s record of 199 in 2021 and 2022.

“The defund, disarm, and disparage movement has made a great negative impact on our communities’ safety,” Dunn added, noting the King County Sheriff’s Office only recently dropped under 100 vacant deputy positions, despite the office having funding for those vacancies. “[DeSantis] supports a strong law enforcement and an accountable criminal justice system.”


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