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McMorris Rodgers Narrowly Secures Top Spot in Washington Primary

Democrat Lisa Brown was close behind in second place

Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a Democratic target. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a Democratic target. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers narrowly secured the top spot in her primary in Washington on Tuesday, which could embolden Democrats looking to unseat the only woman in GOP leadership.

Under Washington’s top-two primary system, all candidates run on the same ballot and the two with the most votes, regardless of party, advance to November. 

With 46 percent of 5th District precincts reporting, McMorris led with 48 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Democrat Lisa Brown, when The Associated Press called the race.

Brown, a former Washington State University Spokane chancellor, was the only Democrat on the ballot, which also featured two other Republicans and one third party candidate. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Eastern Washington seat Likely Republican.

An aide to McMorris Rodgers noted in an email that votes were still being counted, and that the congresswoman received 42 percent of the primary vote in 2016. She went on to win the general election by 19 points.

Democrats have touted Brown, a onetime majority leader of the state Senate, as a top recruit, bolstered by strong fundraising so far. But McMorris Rodgers has an edge in cash on hand, reporting $1.2 million in the bank as of July 18, compared to Brown’s $920,000. Brown has also been endorsed by EMILY’s List, which backs female Democrats who support abortion rights.

From the Archives: Already Small in Number, GOP Women Incumbents Could Be In Jeopardy

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Other Democratic targets

Democrats are targeting two other GOP-held seats in Washington, but the results in the most hotly contested race in the open 8th District might not be known for some time since Washingtonians all vote by mail.

With 43 percent of precincts reporting, former GOP state Sen. Dino Rossi led with 43 percent of the vote Tuesday, when the AP called declared he would advance to November. The AP has yet to call his Democratic opponent, with three leading contenders battling for second place.

Washington State University professor Carolyn Long secured the second-place spot to take on GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd District, which Democrats are also targeting. Inside Elections rates the race Likely Republican. Long was also endorsed by EMILY’s List.

With 56 percent of precincts reporting, Herrera Beutler led Long 41 percent to 37 percent, when the AP called the general election matchup. Three other Democrats and two Republicans were also on the ballot. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.

A Democratic woman will also take on take on GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse in the 4th District in central Washington. Former television news reporter Christine Brown was the only candidate challenging the two-term congressman. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.

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