Washington Could Be Key Battleground For Women In Both Parties

By Bridget Bowman
CQ-Roll Call

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Washington is one of four states with two female senators, and was one of the first where the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List was active.


With a surge of women House candidates across the country, Washington is emerging as a key battleground for women on both sides of the aisle.

All four of the GOP-held districts in Washington could have women Democratic challengers following next week’s primary. And two of those Republican targets are women.

“I think that we have always had women that have paved the way in politics here,” said Tina Podlodowski, Washington State Democratic Committee chairwoman, noting the state is accustomed to women leaders from both parties.

Washington is one of four states with two female senators, and was one of the first where the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List was active.

Both GOP women who are targets in 2018 served in the state before coming to Congress, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She was minority leader in the state legislature, the first woman to lead a party caucus there, and is currently the only woman in House GOP leadership.

First these women have to make it through the Aug.
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7 primary, where candidates from all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters advance to November.

Democrats aren’t concerned about two Republicans advancing, shutting them out of the general election, as they were in California. They’re targeting three of the four Republican-held House seats here, with one considered a top pickup opportunity.

GOP Rep. Dave Reichert’s decision not to run for re-election in Washington’s 8th District opened up a competitive race in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 3 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-Up.

Two women and one man are the top Democrats, while Republicans have coalesced around real estate investor and former state legislator Dino Rossi.

Rossi was touted as a top GOP recruit who is well known in the area and a prolific fundraiser (he’s already raised more than $3 million). Even though he lost his three recent runs for statewide office, twice for governor and once for Senate, he did well in the area in those campaigns.

“People here see (that) the best person to take him on would be a woman,” said Katie Rodihan, Democrat Kim Schrier’s campaign manager.

Schrier, a pediatrician, had already been challenging Reichert and has raised the most of the other Democrats in the race. She’s particularly targeting women voters, and has had some help from EMILY’s List. The group’s independent expenditure arm spending nearly $335,000 supporting Schrier, largely on mailers, according to ProPublica.

Democrat Shannon Hader, a doctor who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched her campaign after EMILY’s List backed Schrier. Hader said national groups tend to misunderstand the district, pointing out its diverse geography that includes wealthy Seattle suburbs, small towns and farm country.

Hader has several local endorsements, including The Seattle Times. Her pitch to voters centers on her roots in the district and her experience overseeing complex programs at the CDC.

“I am definitely not running as, ‘Vote for me because I’m a woman, or, ‘Vote for me because I’m a doctor,'” Hader said. Instead she’s running as a problem solver and said it’s a “bonus” that she’s a woman with health care experience.

The third top Democrat in the race is Jason Rittereiser, whose campaign believes that his roots in the rural part of the district give him an advantage. He has emphasized his background as a prosecutor, which could be fruitful in a district that consistently backed Reichert, a well-known sheriff. Rittereiser is also the only one of the three candidates to say he would support Medicare-for-All legislation in the House.

It’s unclear which Democrat will secure the second-place spot behind Rossi next Tuesday. Schrier and Rittereiser have TV ads on the air, and Hader has sent out mailers.

Regardless of the result, Democrats are already gearing up to compete in this district. House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, has already reserved $1.7 million in the Seattle media market, and it has spent $176,000 so far, mainly on digital ads opposing Rossi.

Democratic women are poised to advance to November in the three other GOP-held House seats, two of which are Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targets.

McMorris Rodgers is set to face former Washington State University Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown in the 5th District, which Podlodowski referred to as a “battle royale.” Brown is the only Democrat on the primary ballot, and previously served as the state Senate majority leader.

Brown has proven to be a strong fundraiser, and is closing in on McMorris Rodgers’ cash on hand advantage. Brown had $920,000 in the bank as of July 18, which was the end of the pre-primary reporting period. McMorris had $1.2 million on hand.

President Donald Trump carried the 5th District by 13 points with 52 percent of the vote in 2016. Inside Elections rates the race Likely Republican.

Democrats are also targeting GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd District, although they acknowledge that’s more of a reach. Inside Elections rates the race Solidly Republican.

Beutler could face Washington State University professor Carolyn Long, whom one Democratic operative involved in House races expects to emerge from the primary. The two other top Democrats in terms of fundraising are Army veteran David McDevitt, the 2016 nominee, and Iraq War veteran Dorothy Gasque, who worked for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

EMILY’s List has endorsed Brown and Long but hasn’t spent in either primary.

Outside GOP groups are also poised to defend McMorris Rodgers and Herrera Beutler. Winning for Women has not yet spent in those races, but the group is monitoring the contests. The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List has dropped roughly $16,000 on mailers for each of the GOP lawmakers.

A Democratic woman is also set to take on GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse in the 4th District, though that district is even more of a long shot for Democrats. Former television news reporter Christine Brown is the only candidate challenging Newhouse.

Trump won the 4th District by 23 points with 58 percent of the vote. Inside Elections rates the race Solidly Republican.

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