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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Independent Eric Agnew drops congressional bid, leaving McMorris Rodgers and Brown in the race

Eric Agnew, seen here at a campaign event at Perry Street Brewing on Jan. 17, 2018, announced a few days later he was suspending his campaign. The 39-year-old tech manager said lack of resources  prompted his decision not to continue his election effort. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

And then there were two.

Eric Agnew, the 39-year-old tech manager who had been running for Washington’s 5th Congressional seat as an independent, announced this weekend he is suspending his campaign. Agnew cited mounting financial support and interest in the candidacies of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic challenger Lisa Brown as his reason for dropping out.

“We’re not getting enough donations and resources to put up a presentable challenge to the two parties,” Agnew said Monday. “Unfortunately, there’s just too much big money flowing into the race.”

Agnew faced an uphill climb even before the announcements in recent weeks that a super PAC backed by GOP leadership would be backing McMorris Rodgers and that Brown had caught the attention of national Democratic strategists. Bids by independent candidate Dave Wilson in the previous two congressional contests in Eastern Washington ended in primary defeats as Wilson never garnered more than 13 percent of the vote.

As recently as last week, Agnew – who pitched the same moderate, centrist ideology that Wilson advocated in his two runs for office – was meeting with supporters and pledging commitment to the race.

“Everything is just this, it’s just a power struggle,” Agnew told a crowd of about 30 supporters at Perry Street Brewing on Wednesday night, holding up a piece of rope with the ends symbolically colored blue and red to represent the two parties and a white segment in the middle. “They’re not trying to fix anything.”

Agnew said he still believed an independent candidate could win in Eastern Washington, but the high-profile nature of this year’s contest and the protracted early positioning for the Democratic nomination dimmed a third party candidate’s chances. In addition to Brown, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart and current state legislative candidate Matthew Sutherland had announced Democratic bids before bowing out.

“To go from three Democratic candidates down to one, it’s almost like the left has already had its primary and chosen its candidate,” Agnew said. “I think that was a big challenge.”

The other is cash. McMorris Rodgers’ campaign reported it had more than $732,000 on hand following the most recent reporting period with the Federal Election Commission through Sept. 30. Brown, who feverishly raised funds after announcing her candidacy at the end of August, reported about $197,400 on hand during that same period. The next financial reports in the campaign are due at the end of the month, and Brown’s camp has signaled they’re pleased with their numbers.

Agnew’s campaign hasn’t reported any contributions to the FEC.

The congressional bid was Agnew’s first run for political office. A California native, he moved to Spokane after graduating from Eugene Bible College in Oregon. Agnew works for Itron Inc. in Liberty Lake.

There’s still time for the field in Eastern Washington’s congressional contest to change. The filing deadline to appear on the August primary ballot is May 18.

Agnew said he wasn’t ready Monday to endorse either McMorris Rodgers or Brown for the seat.

“I’m going to wait and see how the rest of the election plays out,” he said.