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Matthew Sutherland drops bid challenging Cathy McMorris Rodgers, backs Lisa Brown

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 13, 2017, 5 p.m.

Matthew Sutherland, far left, announced Sunday at a Democratic fundraiser he was abandoning his bid for Congress and endorsing Lisa Brown, second from left. Sutherland will run for one of two seats held by Republicans in the state’s 9th Legislative District, he said. King County Democratic Chairman Bailey Stober, third from left, and former congressional candidate Joe Pakootas also are pictured. (Matthew Sutherland for Washington campaign / Courtesy)
Matthew Sutherland, far left, announced Sunday at a Democratic fundraiser he was abandoning his bid for Congress and endorsing Lisa Brown, second from left. Sutherland will run for one of two seats held by Republicans in the state’s 9th Legislative District, he said. King County Democratic Chairman Bailey Stober, third from left, and former congressional candidate Joe Pakootas also are pictured. (Matthew Sutherland for Washington campaign / Courtesy)

The Democratic field contesting Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for her seat in Congress next year is down to one.

Matthew Sutherland, a Washington State University alumnus who announced his candidacy early this year, told a gathering of Democratic donors Sunday night he was stepping aside to support former state Sen. Lisa Brown. Sutherland will run for one of two positions in the state House of Representatives in the 9th Legislative District.

“I’m committed to making decisions that are best for the team,” Sutherland said in an interview Monday. “I think this is the best decision for Eastern Washington.”

The announcement comes days after Brown, the former WSU Spokane chancellor, secured support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in her bid to unseat McMorris Rodgers. Sutherland said he hadn’t spoken with the national campaign group and the decision to drop out of the congressional race was made in concert with Brown.

“The conclusion that we came to was that the party needed to find some unity,” Sutherland said. “There are parts of the Democratic Party that are fractured right now. We need an ongoing symbol that we’re a Democratic team, and we’re all fighting one fight.”

Sutherland announced his change in plans at a fundraiser held by the Whitman County Democrats on Sunday. Brown also attended the meeting, as did former congressional candidate Joe Pakootas, who is now the vice chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party.

The 9th Legislative District, which includes portions of southern Spokane County, as well as Whitman, Adams, Franklin, Garfield and Asotin counties, is currently represented by Republicans Mary Dye and Joe Schmick. Sutherland said he was discussing with party leaders which position he would run for next year.

Dye defeated Democrat Jennifer Goulet with 66 percent of the vote in her 2016 contest. Schmick ran unopposed. Dye was appointed to the Legislature in 2015. Schmick has served since 2007.

Sutherland had raised about $8,000 in support of his congressional campaign. Brown turned the heads of national strategists with $224,000 raised in her first two months of campaigning.

Independent Eric Agnew also has filed for McMorris Rodgers’ seat. Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart had filed to run as a Democrat, but abandoned his bid earlier this year, citing family medical issues.