Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R)

Washington District 5

Leadership: Republican Conference Chairman

N/A

mcmorris.house.gov

Biography

Elected: 2004, 6th term.

Born: May 22, 1969, Salem, OR

Home: Deer Lake

Education: Pensacola Christian Col., B.A. 1990, U. of WA, M.B.A. 2002

Professional Career: Owner-operator, Peachcrest Fruit Basket orchard, 1984-98; State legislative aide, 1990-94.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Christian

Family: married (Brian Rodgers) , 3 children

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, elected in 2004, took over in 2013 as head of the House Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking post in the GOP leadership. She is the only woman among the top Republican House leaders and a trusted on-message, low-profile lieutenant of House Speaker John Boehner.

McMorris Rodgers spent much of her childhood in northern British Columbia but moved with her family to Kettle Falls, where her parents bought a fruit orchard and operated a stand selling apples, peaches, cherries, and strawberries. Her father was a county Republican Party chairman. She graduated from Pensacola Christian College in Florida and got an M.B.A. from the University of Washington. After college, she became a legislative assistant to Bob Morton, a state House member. "Bob Morton was always encouraging me: 'Go represent me at this meeting,' 'Go give this speech.' You know, I was, like, 'Huh?' And I look back on it now and I think he saw something in me that I didn't see in myself, really," she recalled. When he moved up to the state Senate, McMorris Rodgers was appointed to his House seat at age 24, and later, was elected in her own right. She served for 10 years and chaired the Commerce and Labor Committee. She eventually rose to minority leader, the first female House leader in state history.

In 2004, George Nethercutt, who defeated Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley in 1994, ran for the Senate. He encouraged her to run for his House seat: "Without being rancorous, it's hard to run against a woman. It's different, I'll say. I thought that might give her a little bit of edge," he recalled. McMorris Rodgers and two other Republicans filed to compete for his seat in the primary. The three primary candidates agreed on most major issues including opposing abortion and favoring a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. McMorris Rodgers won 50% of the vote in the primary to 27% for state Sen. Larry Sheahan and 23% for Spokane lawyer Shaun Cross.

The Democratic nominee, Don Barbieri, a wealthy businessman, had a geographical edge over McMorris Rodgers. He was from Spokane, while she was from rural northeastern Washington. Barbieri also had a heavy financial advantage. He had no primary opposition and was well funded going into the general. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent heavily on McMorris Rodgers’ behalf, including airing an ad charging that Barbieri had put “profits before jobs” when his hotel development company laid off workers following a merger. McMorris Rodgers highlighted her pro-business credentials and agricultural background as a farmer’s daughter. That was enough to give her a comfortable victory, 60%-40%, a sign of how much has changed in Foley’s old district.

In the House, McMorris Rodgers has a mostly conservative voting record, especially since President Barack Obama took office. Though The Spokesman-Review of Spokane endorsed her in 2012, it added, “Too often she appears the ideologue in her solidarity with House leadership.” She was chosen to give the GOP response to Obama's 2014 State of the Union address and played up her party's attempt to "trust people" to make their own economic decisions. "The president talks a lot about income inequality," she said. "But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality … and with this administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide. We see this gap growing every single day."

Earlier, she leaned toward the center on some issues. In 2007, she voted to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan, a move favored by Democrats but opposed by President George W. Bush. (She opposed the final version that became law in 2009.) She backed Bush’s Iraq war policies, but also criticized the administration on veterans’ health care and on a delay in rules for country-of-origin meat labeling. She has a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and has worked across the aisle in promoting the growth of hydroelectric power.

McMorris Rodgers became an acolyte of Boehner, with whom she served on the Education and Labor Committee. She won the conference vice chairmanship job with his backing and took on several tasks. He selected her in 2009 to head a GOP task force that unsuccessfully sought to develop a policy on earmarks. She also has served as a liaison to newly-elected women Republicans and was charged with helping to recruit women to run in 2012. McMorris Rodgers also has sought to broaden her party’s use of social media tools. She became part of the new majority’s push in 2011 to cut off money to implement the 2010 health care reform law, introducing a bill to block the Internal Revenue Service from hiring employees to enforce the requirement that all individuals obtain health insurance. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney tapped McMorris Rodgers to serve as his House liaison, partly as a reward for her early endorsement.

She pitched to move up to Republican Conference chairman at the start of the new Congress in 2013, stressing her communications skills and her recruiting of successful candidates, such as her former aide, Jaime Herrera Beutler, who won a seat in 2010. She also touted raising more than $1 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee and contributing more than $300,000 to candidates. She beat out Georgia’s Tom Price, a favorite of the tea party who had the backing of influential Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

The Office of Congressional Ethics subsequently recommended that the Ethics Committee conduct a full-scale investigation into whether McMorris Rodgers improperly used official funds in the leadership race as well as to cover campaign-related activities. The allegations came from a former aide, who told OCE investigators that told OCE investigators that he wrote campaign speeches and did other political work on official time. Her attorney denied the allegations, and in March 2014 the committee said it would not appoint a special investigative panel on the matter, though it continued to look into it. That September, the former aide, Todd Winer, sent an email to reporters accusing her of "efforts to intimidate and punish me for my cooperation" with OCE. Her attorney, Elliot Berke, responded in a statement: “We are sorry to see more frivolous allegations and information from the same source."

McMorris Rodgers took over the leadership job after an election in which women voted Democratic by double-digit margins in the presidential contest and generic congressional ballots. Along with other senior GOP leaders, she considered the party’s perceived weaknesses to be less about its policies than about how it conveys its message. “I don’t think it’s about the Republican Party needing to become more moderate,” she told CNN. “I really believe it’s the Republican Party becoming more modern.” She subsequently hired a Hispanic staffer to provide the party’s message to Spanish-language television networks and set up a Twitter feed in Spanish. Eventually she brought in four full-time staffers dedicated to creating banners and video products for other members to use on social media and in their districts.

She also began hosting meetings between groups of young Republican voters and younger members. Much of her work remained behind the scenes. "I'm trying to promote a Republican cause," she told National Journal in September 2014. "And part of that is [about] message as well as messengers. It's not about me, it's not about my profile, it is about doing that which I think is going to help our overall effort to advance the conservative cause." When she took the rare high-profile assignment of responding to Obama's State of the Union speech, some on Capitol Hill saw her selection as merely bowing to diversity. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said it was a "transparent" attempt to attract female voters.

Republican colleagues praised McMorris Rodgers for her hard work. But when Majority Leader Eric Cantor's unexpected primary defeat in June caused two GOP leadership seats to come open, she quickly said she would not run for either of them. Her staffers subsequently said, however, that the timing just wasn't right and that she remained open to pursuing a higher post in the future.

McMorris Rodgers has had little trouble winning reelection. In 2007, she faced five opponents in the primary, including two who campaigned for support among the district’s conservatives. She won the primary with 56% of the vote and then won the general election by defeating Democrat Mark Mays, the primary runner-up, 65%-35%.

In April 2007, McMorris Rodgers and her husband had their first child, a boy, Cole McMorris Rodgers, who was born four weeks premature and was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Only eight women, all of them in the House, have given birth while serving in Congress, inclusive of McMorris Rodgers. She formed the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus in the spring of 2008 to raise awareness about institutional barriers that individuals with Down syndrome face. In December 2010, she had a girl, making her the first woman in Congress to give birth twice while in office. She gave birth to another girl in November 2013.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2006

(202) 225-3392

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 203
Washington, DC 20515-4705

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2006

(202) 225-3392

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 203
Washington, DC 20515-4705

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 353-2374

10 North Post Street Suite 625
Spokane, WA 99201

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 353-2374

(509) 353-2412

Ten North Post Street Suite 625
Spokane, WA 99201-0712

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 529-9358

Main Street Trade Centre Suite 2
Walla Walla, WA 99362

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 529-9358

(509) 353-2412

Main Street Trade Centre Suite 2
Walla Walla, WA 99362

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 684-3481

(509) 353-2412

555 South Main Street
Colville, WA 99114-2503

DISTRICT OFFICE

(509) 684-3481

555 South Main Street
Colville, WA 99114-2503

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

32 East 25th Avenue
Spokane, WA 99203

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(509) 624-1199

(509) 326-2837

32 East 25th Avenue
Spokane, WA 99203

Staff Leadership Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Mattie Duppler
Coalitions Director

Aerospace

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Agriculture

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Mike Poulson
Policy Director, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Animal Rights

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Andrew Neill
Legislative Aide

Appropriations

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Andrew Neill
Legislative Aide

Louisa Gilson
Legislative Correspondent

Jerry White
Legislative Director

Rebecca Mark
Senior Advisor

Budget

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Energy

D. Evan McMullin
Policy Director

Environment

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Andrew Neill
Legislative Aide

Mike Poulson
Policy Director, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Family

Rebecca Mark
Senior Advisor

Finance

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Govt Ops

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Gun Issues

Andrew Neill
Legislative Aide

Housing

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Andrew Neill
Legislative Aide

Immigration

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Judiciary

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Rebecca Mark
Senior Advisor

Public Works

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Science

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Small Business

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Tax

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Technology

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Rebecca Mark
Senior Advisor

Telecommunications

Rebecca Mark
Senior Advisor

Trade

Rebecca Mark
Senior Advisor

Transportation

David Smentek
Policy Coordinator

Women

Rebecca Mark
Senior Advisor

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Votes: 191,066
Percent: 61.92%
Rich Cowan
Votes: 117,512
Percent: 38.08%
2012 PRIMARY
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Votes: 83,186
Percent: 55.76%
Rich Cowan
Votes: 49,406
Percent: 33.12%
Randall Yearout
Votes: 11,894
Percent: 7.97%
2010 GENERAL
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Votes: 177,235
Percent: 63.67%
Daryl Romeyn
Votes: 101,146
Percent: 36.33%
2010 PRIMARY
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Votes: 106,191
Percent: 63.0%
Daryl Romeyn
Votes: 21,091
Percent: 12.0%
Barbara Lampert
Votes: 15,538
Percent: 9.0%
Clyde Cordero
Votes: 10,787
Percent: 6.0%
Randall Yearout
Votes: 10,635
Percent: 6.0%
2008 GENERAL
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Votes: 211,305
Percent: 65.28%
Mark Mays
Votes: 112,382
Percent: 34.72%
2008 PRIMARY
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Votes: 96,584
Percent: 56.29%
Mark Mays
Votes: 34,251
Percent: 20.0%
Barbara Lampert
Votes: 19,645
Percent: 11.0%
Kurt Erickson
Votes: 12,155
Percent: 7.08%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (64%), 2008 (65%), 2006 (56%), 2004 (60%)

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