Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Brian Dansel and John Guenther enter race for Congress; Michael Baumgartner, Nadine Woodward considering

Republicans Brian Dansel and John Guenther  (Courtesy photos)

A little over a week since the local political landscape was rocked by the surprise announcement that GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers would not be seeking re-election, two Republicans have formally announced they will be running for her seat.

Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel formally announced his candidacy on Monday. He formed an exploratory committee, which allowed him to begin raising money and hiring staff shortly after news broke of McMorris Rodgers’ retirement.

Dansel has served in many roles in elected and appointed office, including as an adviser to the National Economic Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Trump administration, as state executive director of the Farm Service Agency and the regional director of the Pacific Northwest region of the USDA. He also previously served as a state senator, having defeated appointed state Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, in 2013.

“I’ve got the right background,” Dansel said in a Friday interview. “I’ve got both the state elected and local elected experience, and I worked in the federal government.”

Dansel added that his experience working on a prior farm bill and other agricultural policies make him an ideal candidate to represent Eastern Washington in D.C., noting he believed he could bring a “team atmosphere” to his constituents.

“I think that would be refreshing for people,” Dansel said. “That’s before we get into policies, but just the approach someone would take, and I think that makes me unique.”

Republican John Guenther, a recently retired state employee, confirmed Friday he is running for the seat. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2022 but lost in the primary to incumbent Sen. Patty Murray and Republican political newcomer Tiffany Smiley. He initially planned to run for Senate again, this time against Cantwell, but decided to run for U.S. House after learning McMorris Rodgers’ planned to retire.

Guenther worked for 28 years with Child Protection Services and for several years ran the Spokane Valley youth drug treatment center Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations, he said Friday. A member of an Aleutian tribe, Guenther grew up in Alaska, where he said he learned at a young age that he needed to become a stronger man.

“The other candidates are weak,” Guenther said. “I am not weak. I’m a true conservative, a strong individual, and I’m not going to be backing down or going to D.C. to make friends.”

Guenther said his primary policy goals were to close the border with Mexico and to fight drug and sex trafficking. He believes the U.S. has taken on a dangerous amount of debt that threatens the country’s global standing, and that members of Congress have enriched themselves at the expense of ordinary Americans. He added that he would self-impose a term limit of six years if elected.

Other potential candidates for the office continue to seriously contemplate a run.

Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner confirmed Friday he is still considering entering the race, and former Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward told The Spokesman-Review Friday afternoon that she is also weighing her options.

“I’m not 100% there yet,” Woodward said. “I’m doing my due diligence and having the important conversations with the people I need to, but I am overwhelmed with the level of support and encouragement.”

Woodward added that she believed McMorris Rodgers has served her district well during her time in office.

“I sometimes think there are people in the district who don’t appreciate just how hard she worked, and how true she was to herself in a high-profile elected position,” Woodward said. “That’s very important to me – she was true to herself.”