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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lisa Brown calls results of close poll with Cathy McMorris Rodgers ‘nothing but good news’

Lisa Brown, seen on the left during a rally in Spokane in January, lauded the results of a local poll showing her within six points of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, seen on the right during a meeting with the Spokesman-Review editorial staff in November, in a head-to-head race for the region’s Congressional seat. (Tyler Tjomsland/Dan Pelle / Spokesman-Review)

Democratic challenger Lisa Brown declared an early victory Wednesday after a recent poll showed a narrow six-point lead for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in her bid to retain her seat representing Eastern Washington.

McMorris Rodgers, who is seeking her seventh term in Congress and who has routinely defeated her Democratic opposition by wide margins, vowed to continue what has been a record-setting fundraising campaign and dismissed notions she was in lock-step with President Donald Trump.

Brown said in an interview Wednesday that the results of the poll, which showed her behind the congresswoman but much closer than any other Democrat has come to defeating McMorris Rodgers, were “nothing but good news.”

“My takeaway is that more than half of the voters are not satisfied with the performance of someone who’s been in Congress for 14 years,” said Brown. The telephone poll of 403 likely Eastern Washington voters gave McMorris Rodgers an even split on job performance, with 45 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving.

In response to questions about the poll results, McMorris Rodgers said she remained confident in her prospects. “Six months out from the election we’re breaking every possible record, including over 1,100 supporters and volunteers at our campaign kick-off events, and a monumental $1.2 million in donations since January, 85 percent of which are from hardworking men and women in Washington,” she wrote in an email.

McMorris Rodgers spent Wednesday on Capitol Hill questioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about internet privacy, attending a hearing on opioid addiction and holding a telephone town hall in the evening.

The poll, conducted by Elway Research Inc. last week and commissioned by The Spokesman-Review, KHQ-TV and other area media outlets, found a significant gender gap in support for Brown and McMorris Rodgers. Likely voters between the ages of 36 and 64 also showed a preference for the incumbent Republican, but Brown said she believed young voters would be a factor in November.

“There’s nowhere to go but up for us,” Brown said.

Last week, nonpartisan election analyst The Cook Political Report moved Eastern Washington’s congressional seat from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican,” an indication voters might be more likely to flip the district. David Wasserman, an analyst and editor for the publication, said in an interview Wednesday that McMorris Rodgers’ lack of a majority of support in the poll echoes other analyses of the race in the district.

“Being a member of the leadership is a liability at the moment, not an asset,” Wasserman said of the congresswoman.

Wasserman pointed to McMorris Rodgers’ showing in the 2016 August primary in the district, where she captured just 42 percent of the vote, as a sign of potential political trouble.

“Fifteen percent went to a candidate that was running to the right of the congresswoman,” Wasserman said, referring to the candidacy of fellow GOP candidate Tom Horne. “Her support may have been wide, but it wasn’t that deep.”

Still, McMorris Rodgers may have an advantage other GOP incumbents running to save their seats won’t: Brown’s long legislative record from her time as a state lawmaker. The congresswoman’s campaign might be able to seize upon votes there that would be unpopular throughout the district, including decisions on tuition rate and tax increases.

“Brown is not a blank slate. She has a very liberal record,” Wasserman said. “There’s going to be all kinds of votes for McMorris Rodgers to attack.”