Former state Sen. Lisa Brown is getting a shot of confidence from national Democrats in her bid to upset seven-term incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has named Brown to its so-called “Red to Blue” program of top-tier challengers as the party seeks to topple GOP incumbents and flip open seats to take a House majority in the 2018 midterm election. Brown is one of 24 Democratic House candidates to receive the designation, which will grant her campaign additional organizational and fundraising support, and signal her viability to national donors.
“Lisa Brown has been a tireless champion for Eastern Washington for her entire career, from her relentless focus on growing the region’s economy, to building Eastern Washington’s first medical school, which has brought world-class healthcare and thousands of jobs to the region,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján in a statement. “Lisa believes that now more than ever, we need to bring more people to the table, not shut them out. That’s because she doesn’t care about partisan labels, she cares about results.”
National political oddsmakers still predict the 5th District is likely to remain in Republican hands. But motivated Democrats are hoping for a massive midterm wave riding on a backlash against President Donald Trump. At the very least, the DCCC’s 5th District play could force Republicans to spend money in an effort to protect what had long been thought safe GOP turf.
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A Democrat has not been elected in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District since then-House Speaker Tom Foley lost to Republican George Nethercutt in 1994’s Republican wave. McMorris Rodgers, first elected to Congress in 2004, has won her past three re-election campaigns with 60 percent-plus of the vote. As the fourth-ranking House Republican, McMorris Rodgers is known as a reliable ally of House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose leadership PAC has set up shop in Spokane to help her win reelection.
Brown served two decades in the state Legislature, rising to state Senate majority leader. She later served as chancellor of Washington State University Spokane. She was among six candidates added this week to the “Red to Blue” list by the DCCC.
“It is gratifying to see our message that Eastern Washington deserves an independent-minded, effective leader — who meets with people in open forums — resonate throughout the district. We are where we are today because over 1,500 people, from Chewelah to Walla Walla, have signed up to volunteer for the campaign,” Brown said in a statement emailed through a spokesman Sunday.
A McMorris Rodgers campaign spokeswoman sought to use the DCCC announcement to tie Brown to the agenda of liberal Democratic leaders.
“Nancy Pelosi is desperately trying to buy more votes to become Speaker of the House again by tricking far-left San Francisco and Seattle donors into writing checks for her protege: tax-raising, big-spending, tuition-raising Lisa Brown,” said the spokeswoman, Ashley Stubbs, in an email.
As a longtime incumbent, McMorris Rodgers has maintained a big fundraising edge in her re-election bid, raising more than $1.9 million through the end of 2017 — with $1 million in the bank, according to the latest fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission. Brown, who launched her campaign Aug. 31, raised more than $600,000 through the end of the year, with $450,000 cash on hand.