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Democrats have tough task in 5th

Consider the plight of the Democrats trying to take back Eastern Washington’s congressional seat, a spot they once held for 30 years.

Until a few days before filing week opened June 7, they had no announced candidate and no hope of wresting the seat from three-term Republican incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a former state legislator who advanced rapidly into GOP leadership circles within the U.S. House of Representatives.

By June 11, the day filing closed, Democrats had four candidates: Clyde Cordero, a relatively recent Spokane Valley resident who even some staunch party loyalists didn’t know, but who had the leadership’s support; Barbara Lampert, of Spokane, who runs for some office every year, and again picked the House seat to which she aspired in 2008, finishing last in that primary with 2 percent of the vote; Daryl Romeyn, of Greenacres, who has the most familiar name and face of the four because of his time as a TV news and weather reporter for two Spokane stations, but no political record; and David Fox, a Port Angeles attorney who grew up near Othello but didn’t live in the 12-county congressional district when he filed and made a last-minute decision to run for a House seat across the state rather than for Clallam County prosecutor.

By mid-July, McMorris Rodgers had raised more than $1 million for her campaign, had spent more than half, but still had $621,000 available and plenty of time to raise more if she needs it. Democratic candidates were just getting started raising money and talking about strategies that could lead them to victory at the ballot box without winning the race for campaign cash.

Even with four candidates, Democrats may have only marginally increased their hope of keeping McMorris Rodgers from another term. Instead, the quartet of Democrats must compete with Constitutional Party candidate Randall Yearout, challenging McMorris Rodgers from the right, for voters’ attention in a summer primary that sends two, and only two, candidates to the general election regardless of party.

Yearout, who ran for the spot in 2008 and finished with 3 percent, uses a strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution as his guidepost, and stronger attention to states’ rights. While many Eastern Washington Republicans espouse the same beliefs, the question for him is whether enough will forsake McMorris Rodgers, also a strong conservative, to support him in the primary. He’ll also need a fairly even vote split among the four Democrats; if one runs away with the party support, he or she is certain to finish in the top two.

The winner on Nov. 2 gets a two-year term, a salary of $174,000, good health benefits, some travel and office expenses, and a chance to do something about a nation fighting two wars, trying to pull itself out of a recession and swimming in red ink.