Renton City Councilmember and attorney Kim-Khanh Van will challenge incumbent Reagan Dunn this November to represent District 9 on the Metropolitan King County Council.
That’s according to updated ballot counts as of Friday from the Aug. 3 primary, which show Van receiving 21.8 percent and third place runner-up Chris Franco at 16.1 percent of the vote. The fourth candidate, Ubax Gardheere, had earned 6 percent of the vote by Friday.
Dunn, meanwhile, easily swept first with 55.9 percent of the vote.
That tally put Van ahead 2,502 votes of Franco, an amount which had grown from initial ballot returns Tuesday night. With roughly 87 percent of the primary ballots counted by Friday, Van’s second-place finish appears all but guaranteed.
Van said she’d continue running a positive campaign focused on providing fresh leadership and connecting with voters.
“Our community, our team are super excited,” Van said Wednesday. “We know that votes are still getting counted. This is really just a testament … to the work our team has done and the work volunteers have put in.”
Reached election night, Dunn was pleasantly surprised by his performance in the initial returns. By Friday, he had received 24,485 votes; nearly 15,000 more than Van.
“It’s still an election, and the voters are going to have a chance at another bite at the apple in the general election November 2,” Dunn said. “It looks like Kim-Khanh Van is coming through, (and) I look forward to a spirited debate about the future of our portion of the county.”
Gardheere said Tuesday evening that she was celebrating her team’s hard work, including door knocking, fundraising and other ways of reaching out to voters, even if the results mean her run for the position this year is over.
“District 9 spoke, and I wasn’t the person they were looking for,” Gardheere said.
Gardheere plans to make an endorsement in the race but said she is still mulling over that decision.
Efforts to reach Franco after the primary were unsuccessful.
King County Council seats are divided up geographically. District 9 covers a cross-section of urban, suburban and rural voters, spanning Enumclaw in the southwest to the southern tip of Bellevue and stretching to the east edge of the county.
With such a varied group of constituents, it’s no wonder the race produced a diverse crop of candidates, too.
Dunn, a Republican who has held the seat for four terms, is a former federal prosecutor whose campaign has focused on supporting and increasing funding for law enforcement and providing a counterweight against “failed policies in Seattle” making their way into the rest of King County. He advocates for limiting regulations on home construction in order to keep housing affordable, and has channeled his past struggles with alcohol abuse into programs like this year’s King County Conference on Addiction Disorders.
Dunn has the endorsement of the entire Enumclaw City Council and numerous members of other local city councils. He’s been endorsed by the mayors of Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Maple Valley, Covington, Renton, Kent, Bellevue and Newcastle. He’s also endorsed by a number of police and fire unions, including the King County Police Officer’s Guild, and he’s picked up the Seattle Times’ editorial board nod.
Renton city council member Kim-Khanh Van, elected in 2019, is a former refugee, a small business owner and an attorney. “The Van Plan” focuses on expanded healthcare access, building more affordable housing and investing in programs to raise financial literacy and workforce training. From her perspective, some communities need police officers who look more like them while others might need better access to social workers, and the county also needs to focus on preventing youth gun violence and attacks against historically marginalized communities.
Her endorsements include a number of labor groups like the Washington Education Association and Academic Student Employees and Postdocs at the University of Washington. King County Executive Dow Constantine and a number of state senators and representatives.
Franco, a program manager at the King County Office of Equity and Social Justice, previously served in the U.S. Army for eight years and left with the rank of Captain. Franco has pushed for taxes “more reflective of Eisenhower’s time” and an approach to policing that prizes transparency and trust with the community. He focused on addressing structural racism at the county level and wanted to push the county to invest in more environmentally friendly infrastructure.
His endorsements prior to the primary included a large number of trade unions, the King County Democrats and various legislative Democrat groups, The Sierra Club, several local City Council members and The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative biweekly newspaper.
Gardheere, the Equitable Development Division Director in the City of Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development, ran on an ambitious platform of economic, housing, climate, racial equity and policing reform, encouraging co-op and employee-owned businesses, housing as a human right, a Green New Deal, and investment in alternatives to law enforcement and the penal system.
In 2010, she was arrested and plead guilty to misdemeanor harassment after a mental health crisis led her to board a Highline School District bus and make threatening statements to the students on board. She said she had grown from the incident and only been more inspired to run after facing criticism over it.
Gardheere picked up primary endorsements from the Transit Riders’ Union, Seattle publication The Urbanist, several city council members across King County and State Sen. Rebecca Saldaña.