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Democrats Natasha Hill and Ann Marie Danimus are early filers hoping to unseat Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 15, 2021

The two women vying to do what no Democrat has been able to in nine tries both say they will be better representatives for Eastern Washington than Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Ann Marie Danimus, 51, and Natasha Hill, 39, have both announced their intentions to run against the congresswoman, who has held her seat with comfortable electoral margins since 2004. Both candidates said they were running because they felt McMorris Rodgers, 52, has not been voting in the interests of her district, specifically mentioning her recent “no” vote on a $1 trillion transportation infrastructure bill as evidence of that trend.

“These are things that were needed by small towns outside the hub of Spokane,” said Danimus, the owner of a small marketing and business development firm, of the provisions in the bill. President Joe Biden is scheduled to sign it into law on Monday.

“We absolutely need that infrastructure for our region,” said Hill, who operates a single-person law firm in Browne’s Addition, specializing in business and contract litigation. “It means a lot of good-paying jobs for the trades in our region.”

McMorris Rodgers said after her vote against the legislation that it was a “reckless” bill that did not reflect the “will of the American people.” A campaign spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Danimus and Hill will have to reverse a long trend of Democrats in the district receiving between 35% and 45% of the general election vote. Both women said they recognized the tough sledding for a Democrat in the 5th Congressional district, prospects that are unlikely to change even as new boundary lines are drawn based on 2020 census figures.

“I don’t think that’s going to do it,” Hill said of the redistricting process, one she knows well from her time serving on the bipartisan panel drawing lines for the new Spokane County commissioner districts. “My campaign’s goal is to figure out why folks are disengaged in the process and not voting.”

Hill said she hopes to boost turnout in 2022 by reaching voters in far-flung areas of the district and telling her story, as a single mother who returned to Spokane to raise her two children in the community where she grew up and graduated from Rogers High School.

“We really need to get people engaged in the political process; to do that, they’ve got to feel a connection,” Hill said. “We haven’t had many candidates who’ve been able to establish that connection.”

Boosting turnout has been a common refrain among Democratic challengers to McMorris Rodgers over the past decade. Three years ago, in the most recent midterm election, Lisa Brown and McMorris Rodgers combined to turn out more than 320,000 voters in the district, by far the most in any midterm election since McMorris Rodgers originally arrived in Congress after the 2004 campaign.

The Republican congresswoman’s victory margin was lower than in previous years, but still stood at more than 9% when the results were certified.

Danimus said she wasn’t being “Pollyannaish” about her chances, but that her goal was to speak to Republicans and demonstrate that she could be a representative for them, too.

“If I focus on the numbers, then I’ve become a person that shouldn’t be a politician,” Danimus said. “I’m going to show up, and I’m going to tell them that I see them, that I understand them.”

Danimus ran unsuccessfully as an independent in the three-person primary for state Sen. Mike Padden’s seat representing Spokane Valley and east to the state line. Danimus, who helped out on a family ranch in her childhood and returned to Spokane to care for the medical needs of her mother, called herself a “liberal black sheep in a Republican family.”

“There’s a lot of distrust of anyone with a ‘D’ on the end of their name,” Danimus said.

Nicole Bishop, chair of the Spokane County Democrats, said she was “elated by both candidates.”

“Natasha brings with her a lot of diversity, and a lot of experience in different fields,” Bishop said. “She’s deeply invested and involved in the community.

“And Ann Marie, she has a background that can really appeal to a lot of voters that Democrats haven’t reached before.”

McMorris Rodgers, Hill and Danimus are the only three who have filed so far with the Federal Election Commission for the race, a prerequisite to fundraising in support of a Congressional campaign. Actual filing for the seat will not occur until May.

McMorris Rodgers reported $1.7 million in campaign contributions and $2.2 million in cash on-hand as of Sept. 30. Neither Danimus nor Hill has reported any contributions yet, but both are actively fundraising.

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