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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Stuckart drops out of congressional race, citing family medical issues

FILE – Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart speaks  Feb. 12, 2017 at Gonzaga University. Stuckart plans to propose a tax on firearm and ammo sales within city limits, similar to a measure approved in Seattle in 2015. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart is dropping his bid to unseat Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Congress, citing family health issues, the Democrat’s campaign confirmed Tuesday.

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon following the announcement, Stuckart denied his decision to withdraw had anything to do with rumored opponents in next year’s election.

“This is due to personal health issues with my closest family members and is not a political decision at all,” Stuckart said.

Stuckart said his focus was on his job as head of Spokane’s City Council, and he declined to offer support for any candidate currently in the race.

“The only things I have in play right now are my family, my job at the city and the citizens in Spokane,” he said.

Lisa Brown, the outgoing chancellor of Washington State University’s Spokane campus and rumored potential opponent in the Democratic primary, said Stuckart told her he was withdrawing from the race Tuesday morning. Brown said she knows Stuckart and his family well and was sorry to hear about the family health issues.

Brown said she’s still considering a run for the congressional seat. Prior to working at WSU, Brown served in the Legislature for 20 years.

“It’s no secret that I’m strongly considering entering the congressional race,” Brown said in a text message. “My timeline will likely remain the same, as the med school opens in August and I want to finish my work here before taking on another challenge.”

Stuckart had eyed a mayoral run before filing in December to run against McMorris Rodgers, who is serving her seventh term as congressional representative in Washington’s 5th District. Stuckart would not say if Tuesday’s decision had any bearing on future campaigns for offices at the local or national level.

The Democrat had raised $69,011.66 in his bid to unseat McMorris Rodgers, according to the campaign’s most recent financial statement in April. Stuckart said he was calling donors to see if they wanted their money returned.

“We’re trying to get as much money back in people’s pockets as possible,” he said.

Spokane County Democrats are disappointed that Stuckart withdrew from the race, said Andrew Biviano, the party’s chairman.

“He was one of the stronger candidates we’ve had in quite some time,” he said.

Biviano called it a “setback,” but because the election is still months away he said the party will be able to adjust.

“He’s done a good thing for us already (with) the energy he’s brought,” Biviano said.

He added, “Someone else will have to step up and carry the banner.”

Matthew Sutherland, a Washington State University alumnus, is currently the only Democrat registered in the congressional race other than Stuckart. He said he was startled by the news and wishes Stuckart the best.

“As someone who is human I empathize with the fact that someone is going through family issues,” he said.

Staff writer Eli Francovich contributed to this report.