Recap: 5 takeaways from the 8th Congressional District debate

Democratic incumbent Kim Schrier and Republican challenger Matt Larkin faced off to discuss gas prices, abortion and law enforcement. Watch the recording here.

Kim Schrier and Matt Larkin stand behind podiums

Democratic incumbent Kim Schrier and Republican challenger Matt Larkin participate in the 8th Congressional District debate at Central Washington University in Ellensburg on Friday. (Brevin Ross / The Observer) 

The candidates for the 8th Congressional District spent much of a debate in Ellensburg on Friday, Oct. 28 painting each other as too extreme and partisan for one of the few purple districts left in the U.S. 

Many see the race in the district, which includes Chelan and Kittitas counties east of the Cascades and eastern King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to the west, as a critical race in deciding the balance of power in Congress over the next two years.

Find more coverage on candidates, races and ballot issues in our 2022 general election voter guide. 

The Washington State Debate Coalition, founded by the Seattle CityClub in 2016, has produced public debates all over the state, including ones involving candidates for governor and Congress as well as other statewide races. The coalition is supported by media, educational and civic organizations.

Rep. Kim Schrier, a Democrat and pediatrician from Sammamish, seeks a third term. Schrier was elected in 2018 and contributed to her party reclaiming the House, serving as a check to then-President Donald Trump. 

Challenger Matt Larkin, a Republican and businessman from Woodinville, wants to return the favor by helping Republicans reclaim the House and serve as a check to President Joe Biden. 

Related reading on the 8th Congressional District race: 

Democrats raising more than Republicans in WA congressional races

Washington candidates spin contrasting economic narratives


Voter Guide Washington State 2022

While the debate, held at Central Washington University, highlighted contrasting positions on certain issues, such as abortion, inflation and energy, at other times the candidates were in agreement:

1. They disagreed on how to respond to inflation and rising costs 

Schrier touted various legislation she backed that she said has brought relief to Americans, such as capping the cost of insulin at $35 for seniors and a bill that would prevent gas and oil companies from price-gouging. She said several times during the debate that the industry was making record profits when Americans were struggling to pay at the pump. 

When asked whether she would still vote for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan now that she knows it has contributed to inflation, Schrier said, “I support the bill I voted for,” noting that it provided relief to businesses, provided widespread COVID-19 vaccination nationwide and allowed children to return to school safely. 

Larkin said he would not have voted on spending bills, including the American Rescue Plan, that he argues contributed to rising costs. Larkin maintains the Biden Administration's policies stifled gas supply and led to rising prices. He criticized Biden for opening the nation’s oil reserves and instead advocated for more drilling. 

2. Divergent views on energy independence and gas prices

Asked about rising gas prices, Schrier again blamed oil and gas companies, saying they have been unwilling to ramp up supply to respond to demand and focusing solely on profits to benefit stockholders. 

Schrier emphasized the need to transition away from fossil fuels to be less dependent on other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela. She wants to push instead for a “clean-energy economy.” 

Larkin said he supports “all of the above” approaches to energy, including green power sources such as solar and wind energy. However, he criticized the Biden administration for shrinking the energy supply by stopping the construction of gas pipelines and limiting oil drilling. 

3. Distinctly different on abortion 

Larkin said he would not push for a federal abortion ban as he wants to focus on other topics, such as the economy and government spending. He tried to paint Schrier as having an extreme position, saying she supports legal abortion right up to birth. Schrier argued Larkin was hiding his own extreme position on banning abortion without exceptions. 

Schrier called the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade “a gut punch” for women who had a right to “safe and legal abortion for 50 years” and that abortion is a health care decision that should be reached by a woman with her doctor, not the government. Larkin made his pro-life position clear, stating the importance of “affirming and defending life in this country.” 

4. Both expressed support for law enforcement

Schrier said she “stands with our police” and acknowledges their role in fighting “rising crime.” She noted she went on ride-alongs with law enforcement during which they requested more funding that would enable them to hire, equip and retain officers. She touted her efforts that brought a few hundred million dollars to Washington state and helped local law enforcement in the district. 

Larkin accused Schrier of not holding that same position during the “defund movement” of the past few years. He said he talked to law enforcement officers who did not feel supported by Schrier. Otherwise, he expressed a similar sentiment of needing to provide money to help law enforcement agencies hire and retain officers. He talked about being endorsed by law enforcement leaders and organizations.

5. They tried to paint their opponent as partisan and extreme while promising bipartisanship.

Larkin said several times during the debate that Schrier was extreme for voting 100 percent of the time with Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He argued that her voting record was out of touch with the moderate 8th District. He urged the district’s residents to vote for him if they wanted a balance of power.

Schrier, in her opening statement, touted passed legislation she sponsored: bills that were signed by both Trump and Biden. She committed to being “the bipartisan voice you expect.” She declared that Larkin would not have that same spirit as he has associated himself with far-right Republicans such as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, an association she mentioned several times during the debate. 

A crowd shot of the 8th Congressional District debate at McConnell Auditorium at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
Audience members sit at McConnell Auditorium at Central Washington University in Ellensburg for the 8th Congressional District debate. (Brevin Ross / The Observer) 


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