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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Michael Baumgartner joins crowded race to represent Eastern Washington in Congress

Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner has formally joined the race for Washington’s 5th congressional district, announcing his candidacy at a campaign launch event at the University District Gateway Bridge overlooking the Washington State University Spokane Medical School.

“I’m running for Congress because I believe, and what I feel, is that the American dream is dying,” Baumgartner said. “I’m just not going to let that happen. Together, we’re not going to let that happen.”

Surrounded by supporters and his family, Baumgartner said he’s focused on security on the U.S.-Mexico border and concerned by inflation, crime and homelessness, as well as “the sense that America is on the retreat in the world stage.”

When asked, he said he supported continued aid to Ukraine but agreed with using it as leverage in Congress for a more favorable agreement on the southern border. He avoided giving a position on a national ban on abortion, an issue that has taken center stage in this and other federal elections across the country, and repeated that it was now an issue decided by individual states.

“We’d have to see what the legislation looked like,” he said. “In Europe, I think a lot of people are surprised that almost everyone in Europe has more time limits on abortion than we have here in the United States.”

Baumgartner gained prominence in 2010 when he defeated incumbent Democratic state Sen. Chris Marr in what was then the most expensive legislative race in Washington state history. He filed to run with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday and soft -launched his campaign with a weekend stop at the Lincoln County Republican Lincoln Day event in Davenport. He enters an increasingly crowded field with fellow Republican hopefuls including Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle, Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel, former state employee John Guenther, talk radio host Rene Holaday and state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, all of whom announced their candidacy in the days following incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ announcement early this month that she would not run for re-election.

Other prominent Republicans in the region considering a run include former Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and former Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovitch. Woodward’s predecessor, former Mayor David Condon, told The Spokesman-Review Sunday that he would not join the race.

Three Democrats have announced their bids , including OB-GYN Dr. Bernadine Bank, former Spokane County Democratic Party Chair Carmela Conroy and small business owner Ann Marie Danimus.

Baumgartner is serving his second term as Spokane County treasurer, having first won election to that position in 2018 after opting not to run for a third term in the state Senate. The treasurer’s office is responsible for collecting property, real estate and excise taxes, as well as investing county funds.

He said he does not intend to leave his current office during his run for Congress.

Baumgartner ran for U.S. Senate halfway through his first term as state senator, losing to incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell. He previously had his eye on the congressional seat he is now running for, having announced in 2016 that he intended to run amid rumors that McMorris Rodgers would be appointed interior secretary under Donald Trump who had just been elected president.

He served in Iraq and Afghanistan while an officer in the State Department, coordinating economic and political counterinsurgency operations at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iraq War troop surge of 2007. He later lectured on counterinsurgency as a guest faculty member of Sciences Po University in Paris and in 2019 taught a course called Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategy with the late Washington State University football coach Mike Leach.