Oct 25, 2022 - Politics

Washington's 8th Congressional District could tip control of Congress

Photo illustration of Kim Schriel, tinted blue, and Matt Larkin, tinted red, separated by a white halftone divider.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier (left) and her Republican challenger, Matt Larkin. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Bill Clark/Getty Images, and courtesy the campaign of Matt Larkin

In 2018, pediatrician Kim Schrier turned Washington state's 8th Congressional District blue for the first time. Now, the two-term incumbent is defending her seat against a Republican who says she and other Democrats have "hijacked" the country.

Why it matters: Schrier's fight for a third term is one of a handful of toss-up races that will decide which party controls the House this November.

Driving the news: Schrier (D-Sammamish) faces Republican Matt Larkin, a lawyer who co-owns his family's manufacturing business.

  • Larkin — who ran for state attorney general in 2020 and lost — is campaigning on a slogan of "make crime illegal again," while accusing Schrier of not doing enough to support law enforcement.
  • Schrier, meanwhile, has emphasized Larkin's anti-abortion stance and said he would join with Republicans to ban abortion nationwide.

The big picture: Of Washington state's 10 congressional districts, the 8th is the only one rated as a toss-up by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. The district includes suburbs east of Seattle, as well as part of Central Washington.

Here are a few areas where the candidates disagree.

Gun control

Schrier recently supported a bill to ban assault weapons, which passed the U.S. House in July. The measure, which hasn't passed the Senate, would ban a variety of semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s.

  • Larkin, by contrast, has said he will fight against gun control measures. In a debate before the August primary, he told the crowd, "I will fight for your right to carry a firearm and protect yourself with a firearm."

Jan. 6 and the 2020 election

In a June Seattle Times article, Larkin declined to comment on whether he believes Joe Biden's win over Donald Trump was legitimate or whether he agrees with Trump's false claims of widespread election fraud. He also said he didn't know how he would have voted on creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Abortion

Schrier ran an ad criticizing Larkin's stance on abortion as "dangerous," while co-sponsoring legislation in Congress that would, if enacted, codify the recently overturned Roe v. Wade decision into federal law.

  • Larkin has been open about his opposition to abortion, saying in the Republican primary debate, "I promise I will fight for the lives of the unborn."
  • In a Seattle Times story in July, Larkin said he would "not be opposed to" a national abortion ban, though he'd "want to see the specifics."

COVID-19

Larkin said in the spring that, had he been elected attorney general in 2020, "We wouldn't have any of these mandates — masks, vaccines."

  • Schrier took a more measured approach, saying when local schools first closed in spring 2020 that it was a critical step to slow the spread of the virus. She later said hospitalization and vaccination rates should be taken into account when deciding whether to lift masking restrictions.

Climate change

In a July interview with conservative radio host Jason Rantz, Larkin said inflation was a bigger problem than climate change for voters.

  • "People are hurting right now and it's not because of a warming environment, it's because they can’t fill their gas tanks, they can't afford groceries, they don’t feel safe going into their local park," Larkin said. "These are the issues people care about."
  • Schrier, for her part, has said combating climate change needs to be a national priority and has supported keeping the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement. She recently praised President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which will pour about $370 billion into emission-reductions efforts nationwide, telling Crosscut, "It takes on climate change with the urgency that it deserves."

What's next: The two candidates are scheduled to square off in a debate Friday, Oct. 28, which can be streamed on TVW.

  • Ballots for the Nov. 8 election were mailed to registered voters last week.

Go deeper: Midterm elections 2022 — How to vote in Washington state

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