Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is not used to competitive elections. But her embrace of Trump has put her in danger.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the chair of the House Republican Conference and the most powerful woman in the GOP House caucus, was once seen as a rising star in her party.
Now, she finds herself vulnerable in a tight race for re-election. And according to the Washington Post, when McMorris Rodgers faced angry questions at her recent town hall in Washington’s 5th Congressional District, many constituents made clear they were not impressed by her acquiescence to Trump.
“You are separating families, children from families. What do you say as a mother of three children?” asked one woman, referring to Trump’s inhumane practice of seizing children from immigrant families caught crossing the border.
“When are you and the rest of the leadership going to stand up to this man, in front of the TV cameras?” demanded another woman.
McMorris Rodgers tried to tell the crowd that she has “stood up to” Trump — but her voters would be forgiven for their skepticism.
While McMorris Rodgers did criticize Trump during the election for mocking a disabled reporter and for the “Access Hollywood” tape, on which he bragged about sexually assaulting women, she went on to vote for his policies in Congress 97 percent of the time.
She voted to strip health care from millions of people, to pass the GOP tax scam, and is now backing a cruel farm bill that would cut food assistance for 2 million people while funneling subsidies to billionaires, with Trump’s blessing.
McMorris Rodgers has not faced many competitive elections in recent years. She won her last two races by 19 and 21 points, respectively.
But she faces a formidable Democratic opponent in Lisa Brown, a former state senate majority leader and chancellor of Washington State University. Brown is running on a platform including universal health care, student loan reform, campaign finance reform, protection of immigrant rights, environmental protection, and the restoration of net neutrality.
Washington’s 5th District, anchored in Spokane, comprises the easternmost portion of the state, on the Idaho border. Despite Washington’s deep blue reputation — the state government officially became a Democratic trifecta last year — Washingtonians east of the Cascades tend to be more rural and conservative.
It is rare for high-ranking party leaders in Congress like McMorris Rodgers to lose re-election, but it does happen. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his primary in 2014. Ironically, another of the most recent congressional leaders to lose re-election — former Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley, in 1994 — represented McMorris Rodgers’ own seat.
McMorris Rodgers is not the only top House Republican to be fighting for her political life. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the House Intelligence chairman who made a fool of himself using his own office to attack those investigating Trump, also finds himself in a tight race in his usually blood-red Central Valley district.
If Trump has achieved anything in office, it has been to jeopardize the careers of the old Republican guard, who abandoned all pretense of principles to latch onto his agenda — and are now paying the price for it.