McMorris Rodgers and Brown race for Congress

Midterms will determine the 5th Congressional District’s next representative


Courtesy of

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (left) and Dem. Lisa Brown (right) are running for the 5th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The winner will be determined Nov. 6.

By Michael Brock, Editor in Chief

During the Nov. 6 midterm elections, all 435 seats of the U.S. House of Representatives will be contested. Ten individuals will be elected to the House from the state of Washington, one from each of the state’s congressional districts.

In the 5th Congressional District, the incumbent, Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers faces off with Democrat Lisa Brown. McMorris Rodgers has represented the district since 2005, and a Republican has held the seat since 1994.

McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking GOP member in the House, hasn’t had a close election in the decade-plus she has represented eastern Washington. However, Brown, a former educator and state legislator, put up a fight in the August primary. She received 45 percent of the vote to McMorris Rodgers’ 49 percent. The latter tallied 7,951 more votes, while the remainder of votes went to other Republicans and a candidate from the “Trump Populist Party.”

Brown’s Background

Courtesy of @Lisa4Congress
Lisa Brown – D

Before running for Congress, Brown was an associate professor of economics at EWU from 1981 to 2001. From 2001 to 2012, she was a professor in organizational leadership at Gonzaga. Brown was elected to the state House in 1992 and to the state Senate in 1996. She served as the Senate majority leader for eight years until 2013, when she became chancellor of WSU Spokane.

As chancellor, she presided over the formation of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the second public medical school in Washington and the first medical school in the WSU system. It was during this time that Brown noticed an opportunity.

“I saw Congress—in particular my opponent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers—going backwards on health care,” Brown said in a phone interview with The Easterner. “Taking votes that would cause people here to either lose their health care or have to pay more for it. And I realized that after 14 years we weren’t really getting the representation we deserved. So I decided that what I could do was leave my job at WSU and get into this race to try to offer a real change in leadership for eastern Washington.”

McMorris Rodgers’ Background

Courtesy of
Cathy McMorris Rodgers – R

McMorris Rodgers served in the Washington House from 1994 to 2004 when she was elected to Congress. After 14 years in Congress, she says the people of eastern Washington are what continue to motivate her.

“I am inspired every day by people that I meet,” McMorris Rodgers said in a phone interview with The Easterner. “[I] desire to make sure we have opportunities in eastern Washington and that we remain innovative and empowered to have an opportunity for a better life.”

On Student Debt

McMorris Rodgers said she is proud to have supported year-long Pell Grants, which were enacted for the first time this year to allow more students to take summer classes.

“We’ve upped the Pell Grant to over $6,100, the highest ever,” McMorris Rodgers said. “[We need to] make sure that there are a variety of grants that are available to students. In addition, I believe that we need to understand what’s driving tuition and I have supported legislation that would provide more transparency as to why tuition continues to increase at such a high rate.”

Even with the Pell Grant adding the year-long feature and reaching over $6,000, Brown says Congress is not doing enough for affordable education.

“I’m an economist,” Brown said. “And I wouldn’t be an economist if there hadn’t been Pell Grants when I went to college that covered the entire cost of tuition. Since then, the federal government has not been maintaining that level of investment in our future.”

One way to maintain that investment, Brown said, is by working to attack the issue at its core.

“I think we could find a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic congresspeople to work together on affordability of higher education in the first place, which would mean more grants,” Brown said. “In addition to that, providing relief for those that already have student loan debt.”

Brown said she wants to serve on the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.

On School Safety

Safety in school is something that both candidates said they are committed to.

Earlier this year, McMorris Rodgers was recognized by Sandy Hook Promise for her work leading to the Stop School Violence Act, a federal law allowing funding for school safety and training programs.

“Schools should be a safe place for students to be able to focus on learning,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I’m going to continue to work to make sure that our schools have the resources that they need for mental health counselors, for resource officers, for training.”

Brown relayed similar sentiments, while also saying Congress needs to be doing more.

“I think that we can enact common sense solutions to reduce gun violence in schools,” Brown said. “When I was chancellor at WSU, we did drills and safety plans for if there was an active shooter on campus. But there are loopholes in our current laws that need to be fixed and Congress, I think, has been unwilling to do that because of the effect of the gun lobby.”

Brown also said that mental and behavioral health disorders should be viewed as things that can be prevented and treated, rather than as stigmas.

Race Impact

The winner of Tuesday’s election will serve a two-year term representing the 5th Congressional District, which includes the eastern Washington counties of Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla and Whitman.