Former Washington state Senate leader Lisa Brown said Thursday she will challenge Rodgers, a Republican, for the congressional seat in a district that includes Spokane.
SPOKANE — The top woman in House Republican leadership has drawn a Democratic challenger.
Former Washington state Senate leader Lisa Brown said Thursday she will challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the congressional seat in a district that includes Spokane, the state’s second-largest city, and a large rural area where logging and farming are the main economic sectors.
McMorris Rodgers is the fourth-ranking member in the House of Representatives.
After serving in the Legislature, the 60-year-old Brown spent several years as chancellor of Washington State University’s Spokane campus. She recently left that job.
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“It’s time to get back to work,” Brown said in a video posted to YouTube on Thursday. “I am running to represent Eastern Washington in the United States Congress.”
The 5th Congressional District has not elected a Democrat since former House Speaker Tom Foley was ousted by voters in 1994 in favor of George Nethercutt. While Spokane leans Democratic, the city’s vote is usually overwhelmed by a larger Republican vote from the rural part of the congressional district.
Brown contends that McMorris Rodgers is out of touch with the district. She was first elected in 2004, and has never received less than 56 percent of the popular vote in a general election.
Health care, economic growth and the rising costs of higher education will be key issues, Brown said
The district’s residents “deserve a congresswoman who is going to listen to them,” Brown said.
McMorris Rodgers in a statement said she looked forward to a campaign conducted civilly, defended her record and criticized Brown.
“I listen to and vote for our district,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I think voters will discover that my opponent does not fit Eastern Washington very well. Her record is of continual tax increases, more government spending and regulations.”
Brown spent 20 years teaching economics at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
She was elected to the Legislature in 1992 and served until 2013, the last eight years as Senate majority leader. She was chancellor of WSU-Spokane for four years, and was a key player in creation of a new medical school on the campus.
Also running as a Democrat is newcomer Matthew Sutherland of Pullman, a Washington National Guard member and 2016 supporter of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, making his first U.S. House race. Independent Eric Agnew, a business owner and newcomer to politics, is also in the race.
All candidates will run in a primary on Aug. 7, 2018, and the two top vote-getters will head to a runoff.
McMorris Rodgers, 48, last year retained her seat by beating Democrat Joe Pakootas with 59 percent of the vote.
Brown said she was motivated to run after the House of Representatives approved a GOP health-care bill this spring that would have cost millions of people their health-insurance coverage.