While the national media has been obsessing over the “too close to call” photo-finish in the special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, I’ve been studying the primary election outcome in a district closer to home – the 5th Congressional District in Washington State.
Washington’s 5th includes many communities that are a stone’s throw from Idaho, including Spokane, Pullman, Clarkston, and Asotin. Since 2005, it has been represented by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, now a member of House GOP leadership.
An obedient lieutenant in Paul Ryan’s hyper-partisan caucus, McMorris Rodgers is part of the right-wing cabal propping up Mr. Trump. She recently held a fat cat fundraiser featuring Devin Nunes, the disreputable chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Memorably, Nunes did his utmost to bury the truth about Russia’s attack on our 2016 election. The committee hearings he chaired were a joke.
Recently, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow played an audio tape made by a person who paid to attend this fundraiser. On the tape, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers could be heard stealthily scheming to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein once they had retained their majority. Their intent, clearly, is to protect the president by shutting down the Special Counsel’s investigation. Indeed, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers have done little more than carry water for a manifestly corrupt administration, becoming complicit in the increasingly evident cover-up.
The GOP has shown itself manifestly incapable of putting country above party. They will not hold this president to account. That is why those of us who believe Mr. Trump is a threat to our republic must do everything we can to ensure that Republicans lose their majority. We can take an important step in that direction by defeating McMorris Rodgers.
For the last quarter of a century, Washington’s 5th district has been regarded as a lock for Republicans. But after the primary vote, McMorris Rodgers looks vulnerable; it is not unreasonable to think the district will flip. The state of Washington has a top-two primary in which the two candidates receiving the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, go head to head in the general election. This year, McMorris Rodgers received less than 50 percent of the vote, and – of perhaps greater significance – Democratic challenger Lisa Brown was nipping at her heals, coming within just 1 percent of the incumbent.
Lisa Brown is an exceptionally strong, superbly qualified candidate. She has had proven success at the ballot box, in the Washington state legislature, as an economics professor and, most recently, as chancellor of Washington State University Spokane. First elected to the Washington state House of Representatives in 1992, Brown went on to serve with distinction in the Washington state senate. In 2005, she became the first Democratic woman in the state to hold the position of Senate Majority Leader.
Lisa Brown’s record in the state legislature is one of real accomplishment. She led the creation of the state's Mental Health Parity Act of 2005, which improved the insurance coverage of mental health services for Washington residents. And she worked to successfully expand children's health care and create the nonprofit Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation. She fought to ensure the state properly invested in public schools and infrastructure, worked to strengthen and diversify the regional economy, and helped pass landmark legislation including the simple majority for schools constitutional amendment and marriage equality.
Idaho Democrats and other Idaho progressives would do well to support Lisa Brown’s candidacy. Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held House seats this year to take control of the 435-seat chamber. Most of us have limited resources and want to support candidates who have a realistic shot at winning. The fact that Lisa Brown came within a hair’s breadth of besting McMorris Rodgers in the Washington primary permits the inference that she is such a candidate. Her stellar record of public service tells us she would be an outstanding member of Congress.
It’s time to flip the Fifth.