Rep. Cathy McMorris is back in Spokane, facing a tougher reelection campaign than I’m sure she ever imagined.
Peter Goldmark signs are sprouting like wheat across farm country, and campaign sources tell me that he closed the third quarter $80,000 ahead of his fundraising target. Goldmark didn’t jump into the race until April, yet he’s on track to raise over $1 million by election day, the vast majority of it from individual donors. Meanwhile, I’m hearing whispers through the grapevine that some independent expenditures could be coming into the 5th CD, further leveling the playing field. If that’s not a sign of growing confidence in Goldmark’s surging candidacy, I don’t know what is.
Anybody who expects a McMorris cakewalk simply isn’t paying attention. Goldmark is perhaps the best Democratic challenger in decades, and there hasn’t been an anti-incumbent mood like this in the district since 1994. President Bush’s approval ratings are now negative and trending downward in Eastern Washington, a dramatic illustration of the political climate change that is impacting reliably Republican districts nationwide. And if all that weren’t tough enough, McMorris comes home with her party mired in the ever-widening Predatorgate scandal.
Don’t think the backlash to the House Leadership’s coddling of a sexual predator can reach all the way into the Goldmark/McMorris race? Well, it depends on how McMorris handles it. If she unequivocally calls for Hastert, Boehner, Reynolds and others who shielded Rep. Foley to immediately step down from their leadership roles — and pledges to support new leadership should she be reelected — then perhaps McMorris can immunize herself. But turning on the GOP leadership can be a difficult thing to do, especially for McMorris who has been widely touted as on the leadership track herself. Throwing her party leaders under a bus could flatten McMorris’s leadership prospects as well.
Predatorgate changes the entire tenor of the race. Voters are losing faith in the ability of GOP to lead our nation — even voters in reliably Republican Eastern WA — and McMorris’s close ties to the House leadership has been transformed from a strength into a weakness. Now, even seemingly innocuous comments and public statements can end up raising issues McMorris would prefer not to raise. For example, on September 28, one day before the Foley scandal broke wide open, McMorris issued a press release touting her law enforcement credentials, which included the following bullet point:
- Co-sponsored the Child Safety Act to protect children from sex offenders
Yeah… co-sponsored the Child Safety Act with Mark Foley. (And to be fair, 87 other House members, but you get the point.)
On September 28 there was no downside to a boast like that. But since September 29 it raises the question of exactly what McMorris has really done to safeguard our nation’s children, that could possibly make up for her personal and professional support of the GOP House leaders who enabled Foley’s sexual predation?
Hastert, Boehner, Reynolds, Alexander and Shimkus all knew the rumors about Foley — that he was a closeted homosexual who indiscreetly showered attention on young, male pages — and they clearly understood his “overly friendly” emails in that context… for why else would they have attempted to cover them up? When push came to shove, the Republican leadership chose to stand by a sexual predator.
Now McMorris needs to tell her constituents whether she stands by her Republican leaders.