Updated Dec. 12 | As of Friday afternoon, President-elect Donald Trump had not officially announced Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers as his pick for secretary of the Interior.
But that didn’t stop Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, a Democrat, from congratulating McMorris Rodgers “on her appointment” and announcing his bid for a special election to replace the six-term congresswoman in Washington’s 5th District.
“It’s always best to be the first person to the party,” he said in an interview Friday.
McMorris Rodgers, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, is reported to be Trump’s pick, but the president-elect’s transition team has not confirmed her selection. She’s currently the highest-ranking woman in Republican House leadership, and her departure could exacerbate the GOP’s gender gap in the House.
Stuckart has been president of the city council since 2012. He founded Communities in Schools of Spokane County, a dropout prevention organization. He had been considering a run for mayor in 2019 but he said Friday that is now “off the table.”
Stuckart said he’ll challenge McMorris Rodgers in 2018 if she’s not picked for Trump’s Cabinet. He’d been discussing taking her on even before the general election, he said.
“The people of Eastern Washington are looking for a representative with laser focus, ready to grow our economy, protect Medicare and Social Security, tackle our out-of-control national debt, pay more than lip service to our veterans, ensure our farmers and job creators can get their goods to market, and value each person for the freedom, dignity and respect they’re afforded under the Constitution,” he said in a statement announcing his campaign.
Another Democrat interested in the race is former state Senate Majority leader Lisa Brown, who’s currently the chancellor of Washington State University-Spokane. If a special election happened next spring or summer, Democrats are hopeful that it could be an early referendum on policies Trump might pursue, like privatizing Medicare or cutting Social Security benefits.
But Democrats would have face an uphill climb. McMorris Rodgers had no trouble winning a seventh term last month in her 5th District race rated Safe Republican by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. Mitt Romney carried the district by 9 points in 2012.
Republicans considering a bid here include retiring state Rep. Kevin Parker. Spokane Mayor David Condon, a former McMorris Rodgers congressional staffer, is also interested. State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell in 2012, might also jump in.