SPOKANE, Wash. – Even the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House is having a hard time locking down a critical constituency this cycle: college-educated white women.
“I do see some falling off among the college-educated women,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
Nationwide, white women with college degrees favor Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans 56 to 42 percent, according to a recent Fox News Poll.
“The intensity is real on the left,” McMorris Rodgers said.
But she doubts that national anti-Republican energy generated by massive demonstrations in Washington, D.C. has made its way to Washington state in a meaningful way.
“Many of the women activists today, those that participated in the women’s march, those that are protesting, do not represent the large, large majority of the women in eastern Washington that want safe communities, healthy families,” McMorris Rodgers said. “They want to be able to live in a place that is free and has opportunity for their children.”
Challenging the seven-term Rep. McMorris Rodgers: Democratic candidate Lisa Brown, who made history in 2005 as the first Democratic woman to serve as Washington state Senate Majority Leader.
“Women voters, I think, identify with me,” Brown said. “I was a single mom when I served in the legislature, and I worked on women’s issues and I even taught women in economics” at Eastern Washington University, she continued.
Brown’s campaign to flip Washington’s 5th district focuses heavily on health-care policy.
“It is cost,” Brown explained. “Premiums going up, deductibles going up, the element of uncertainty after several years of repeal and replace that hasn’t worked out with a repeal or a replace.”
McMorris Rodgers argues there’s no merit to Democratic attacks about Republicans limiting access to affordable health insurance.
“They are using fear to motivate, it’s simply not true,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Republicans want everyone to have access to quality and affordable health care and that’s our commitment.”
The incumbent congresswoman also accuses her Democratic challenger of being too radical to represent this district.
“She will say that she is about women’s rights,” McMorris Rodgers said. “The women that she admires are people like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn who went on to head up the Communist party in the 60s.”
Asked if charges of radical ties move the needle in this close race, Brown pointed to her resume.
“I’ve also lived here since the 1980s, raised my son here, taught thousands of students at Eastern and Gonzaga,” Brown said. “And so those connections to the district, I think, will make people skeptical of any kinds of claims that they might see in the attack ads.”
Neither candidate has much time to make a closing argument, though, because Washington votes by mail.
“I believe that it works for Democrats, the more people turn out,” Brown said. “And not having to put a stamp on the ballot makes it easier for young people, my son is in his 20’s, and stamps aren’t something he deals with every day.”
McMorris Rodgers is trying to take advantage of the unusual system by traveling around the state in a giant recreational vehicle, tailed by a large illuminated billboard with her face on it.
“Election Day in eastern Washington is almost 18, 20 days of Election Day,” McMorris Rodgers said. “So we are chasing ballots right now and that will continue all through the Election day.”