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Democrat Kim Schrier leads WA-08 race after first count

caption: Congresswoman Kim Schrier smiles while speaking to supporters during an election night party on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Westin in Bellevue.
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Congresswoman Kim Schrier smiles while speaking to supporters during an election night party on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Westin in Bellevue.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

On election night, incumbent Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier held a modest lead over Republican challenger Matt Larkin in Washington’s fiercely contested 8th Congressional District race.

At a Democratic Party event at The Westin Bellevue, Schrier told supporters there are many more ballots to count, "but at this moment I can tell you we're feeling pretty darned good."

Larkin, speaking at a nearby Republican Party event, was fiercely optimistic.

"We’re right where we want to be," he said. "We’re in the pocket of victory, where we can still win this."

Analysts predicted this race would be one of the tightest in the country, with the Cook Political Report ranking it one of just a couple dozen "tossups" that could determine control of the U.S. House.

With 58 percent of the ballots counted so far, the race is not over yet. Republicans are favored to win the House, but with weaker margins than initially expected.

Larkin’s campaign was at a distinct disadvantage in the money race this year, raising around $2.2 million to Schrier’s nearly $8.7 million, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

Back in 2018, Schrier flipped the district from red to blue for the first time in its history, helping take back the U.S. House for Democrats. In that race she campaigned as a pediatrician with a local practice in Issaquah, who pledged to protect Obamacare from Republicans who had promised to end it.

This year she also emphasized her medical background, calling herself the “only pro-choice female doctor in Congress” who would stand up to Republican efforts to attempt to ban abortion nationwide, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade earlier this year.

On abortion, Larkin supports banning it even in cases of rape and incest, but in the campaign would not directly answer questions about whether he would vote for a national ban.

Larkin had been a candidate before, running and losing a race in 2020 for state attorney general as the Republican nominee. Larkin is a businessman, who has also worked as a lawyer and prosecutor.

Heading into the August primary this year, Larkin called himself “the most conservative” Republican candidate in the race and made crime his signature issue with the slogan, “Make Crime Illegal Again” populating yard signs all over the 8th District. That message helped propel him through the primary to face Schrier in the general election.

In attack ads and campaign speeches, he attempted to link Schrier to “defund the police” activism and a rising crime rate. For her part, Schrier pointed to her support for tougher gun safety laws as well as bills to provide additional support for police.

The two also differed on inflation, with Larkin accusing Schrier and Democrats of overspending, while Schrier pointed to her efforts to lower costs for prescription drugs, gas, and other goods. She also suggested Larkin planned to cut popular programs from the federal budget, like Medicare and Social Security.

For his part, Larkin says he wouldn't cut either one, but also dodged questions about exactly what spending cuts he had in mind if elected.

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