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Spin Control

Wash. Post briefs readers on McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' gig as the GOP responder to the State of the Union garnered a bit of attention from a Washington Post blog, which listed five things its readers probably didn't know about her.

Most Spokesman-Review readers, many of whom are her constituents, probably knew all or most of them. (Spin Control admits it didn't know, or maybe had forgotten, No. 5.)

Here's a couple other factoids connected to the response, gleaned from The American Presidency Project.

The first member of Congress from Washington to give a response was Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson in 1970. Back then, the opposition party picked a group of folks to speak, and he was one of seven.

The first member of Congress from Eastern Washington's 5th District was Tom Foley, when he was speaker, gave the Democratic response to President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and 1992.

The first woman from Washington to give a response was Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Bellevue, who gave the Republican response to President Bill Clinton in 1999.

The last person from Washington to give a response was Gov. Gary Locke, who gave the Democratic response to President George W. Bush in 2003.

The tradition of giving a televised opposition response dates to 1966, when Sen. Everett Dirksen and then-Rep. Gerald Ford gave the GOP response to President Lyndon Johnson. They did it for two years, but in 1968, Republicans put 16 people in front of the camera, including Rep. Charlotte Reid of Illinois, the first woman to take part in the nearly annual ritual, and an up and coming congressman from Texas, George H.W. Bush.

Nearly annual because some years, there's was no response as one party's president delivered the message before leaving office and the other party's president was inaugurated shortly after. In 1981, President Carter delivered a written message in January as he was leaving office and Democrats didn't offer a formal to a speech President Reagan made in February.

Sometimes it's a single person, other times it's a big lineup, although the 16 Republicans in 1968 was the largest response team.

Sometimes it's the opposition party's ranking member in one or both chambers of Congress. Other times it's up and coming politicians who later run for president. The first governor to be part of the response, in 1985, was a guy from Arkansas named Clinton.

McMorris Rodgers' selection surprised a few political "experts." Earlier this week, the Politico website had a list of 10 possible Republican responders, with the pros and cons of each of these "usual suspects" following Obama. The Eastern Washington Republican was not on it. 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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