Published 5:03 pm, Friday, January 12, 2018
Photo: Meryl Schenker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The state’s most prominent Republican member of Congress is “no longer safe” in her Eastern Washington district, according to an assessment released Friday by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
The report downgraded GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.”
How likely is open to conjecture back in this Washington. Last Saturday, 439 people showed up in Spokane at a volunteers training session for Democratic challenger, former State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.
Brown will hold a workshop for volunteers Sunday afternoon in Walla Walla, at the other end of the district.
“Eastern Washington is not normally a place you’d expect a competitive House rate, but in this political climate problems for Republicans are popping up in surprising places,” David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political report, wrote.
“House GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the only female member of the House GOP leadership elite since 2012, has been a high profile supporter of the party’s legislative agenda. But as that agenda’s popularity has faded, so has her political security back home.”
McMorris Rodgers was a leader in Republicans’ bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). She is an outspoken booster of Republicans’ tax reform plan. She has used ceaseless tweets to claim that middle class taxpayers are its main beneficiaries.
The 5th District, which runs along the Washington-Oregon border, backed President Trump by a 52-39 percent margin in 2016. Rodgers was reelected over Democrat Joe Pakootas by a 60-40 percent margin.
McMorris Rodgers endorsed Trump when he came to Spokane shortly before Washington’s spring primary.
“Yet the depth of support for McMorris Rodgers after 13 years in office is a bit of a question mark,” Wasserman wrote. “Washington has a top-two system of elections, meaning the top two primary vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.
“In 2016, McMorris Rodgers garnered a very weak 42 percent in the August top-two primary, while 15 percent went to fellow Republican Tom Horne, who railed against her as the ‘establishment’.”
Brown is, in Wasserman’s view, a “very credible nominee.” She ws until recently chancellor of Washington State University-Spokane. She has served in the Legislature, and taught at both Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington University.
The Cook Report noted Brown’s quick start at fundraising, and that McMorris Rodgers “only had $732,000 in the bank — not that impressive a sum for a veteran member of the leadership team.”
It’s the second sign of worry for McMorris Rodgers in as many weeks. Last week, news leaked out that the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan, has opened up a fiend office in Spokane.
“There’s plenty of time for McMorris Rodgers to shore up her image in advance of a possible wave,” wrote Wasserman. “But she’s no longer the sure bet for reelection she’s been since 2006.”
The Brown campaign has two fundraisers coming up in Seattle. McMorris Rodgers tapped the tech industry’s political coffers in Bellevue last fall.
The 5th District is landlocked, but it feels “waves.”
The 1964 Democratic landslide saw 11-term Republican Rep. Walt Horan go down to defeat, at the hands of a young former Democratic Senate aide named Tom Foley.
Thirty years later, House Speaker Tom Foley was narrowly beaten by folksy Spokane lawyer George Nethercutt/ Big Tom became the first sitting House Speaker to lose his reelection bid since 1860.