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Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Pakootas wins right to challenge McMorris Rodgers

Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will carry another comfortable lead into the November general election, where she’ll face Democrat Joe Pakootas.

McMorris Rodgers, who serves as chair of the House GOP caucus, also faced challenges from independent Dave Wilson and fellow Republican Tom Horne.

She captured 52 percent of the vote in early returns tonight. Pakootas took 29 percent of the ballots, enough to advance to a head-to-head Nov. 4 showdown with McMorris Rodgers.

Pakootas, 56, is a Democrat with an unusual resume. He’s served on the Colville Tribal Council and as tribal chairman. He and his family operate a gas station and convenience store in Inchelium, and as chief executive officer, he turned the corporation that runs its many tribal businesses into a profitable enterprise.

He wants voters to compare his work record up against the 45-year-old incumbent, who spent 10 years in the Legislature before Congress, and was a legislative aide before that.

Pakootas also brings environmental credibility as a named plaintiff in the lawsuit to force a Canadian mining company to clean up waste being dumped into the Columbia River and flowing into the United States. But he wasn’t well-known in Spokane, the district’s Democratic stronghold, before announcing his candidacy, and primaries often turn on name recognition.

Dave Wilson, 59, an outspoken independent who uses words like dysfunctional, gridlocked and broken to describe Congress, may give voice to the nation’s growing dislike for the partisan politics reflected in voter polls. He got 11 percent of the vote.

He promised to organize moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats in Congress to break what he and others consider a worsening partisan logjam. Although many state and district residents describe themselves as independent in voter surveys, no independent or third-party candidate has survived a congressional primary if the two major parties had a candidate in the race since the state adopted its current top-two system. The last Washington congressman who wasn’t a Democrat or Republican left office in 1915.

Horne, a volunteer firefighter and retired engineer, has an equally steep hill to climb. As the other Republican in the race, he’s positioned himself as more conservative than McMorris Rodgers and more willing to challenge Obama, whom he accuses of trying to operate a banana republic.

All three challengers were critical House Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Pakootas supports the landmark legislation; Horne and Wilson oppose what they call Obamacare but are critical of the unsuccessful tactic.

McMorris Rodgers, meanwhile, used the primary campaign to counter suggestions she’s part of a do-nothing Congress, pointing out legislation the Republican-led House has passed that could mean jobs in Eastern Washington. One example she noted is an overhaul of workforce training policy along with new rules for spending federal money provided to states for job training programs. It passed the House last year on a partisan vote, was reworked in the Senate and was approved this month with strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

(Look for full coverage of this and other primary election races in Wednesday’s edition of The Spokesman-Review)

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