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Cathy McMorris Rodgers announces she won't run for Congress again

 Cathy McMorris Rodgers at her campaign headquarters on Election Night in November 2018.
Photo by Jeremy Burnham
Cathy McMorris Rodgers at her campaign headquarters on Election Night in November 2018.

Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is leaving Congress at the end of the year. The Republican — who grew up in Kettle Falls and now lives in Spokane — released a statement Thursday saying she will not run for an 11th term.

McMorris Rodgers is only the fourth person to serve the Fifth District in Congress in the last 80 years (Republican Walt Horan, Democrat Tom Foley and Republican George Nethercutt were the others). She defeated five other candidates in 2004 to replace Nethercutt. Before that she had spent a decade in the state House of Representatives, serving the 7th district.

McMorris Rodgers has some notable accomplishments in the nation’s capital. For six years (2013-2019), she was the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, considered her caucus’s fourth highest leadership position. She delivered the Republican response to then-President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in 2014. She is currently the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where she is one of the leading voices in opposing the idea of breaching or removing the four lower Snake River dams.

On that committee she has also been a vocal critic of social media companies, calling last March for the TikTok app to be banned in the U.S. In 2023, she led hearings to call attention to the fentanyl crisis and share her belief that large tech companies were partially responsible for it.

McMorris Rodgers is also known as the first Congressional member to give birth three times while in office.

“I would testify today that the greatest blessing in my life has been marrying Brian and becoming a wife and mom — my most cherished titles,” she said in her statement. “Brian is my wise and faithful counselor, the one to wipe the tears from my eyes and send me back into the arena. Together, we have been blessed with three beautiful, beloved children.”

Her eldest, Cole, was born with Down’s Syndrome. Since then, McMorris Rodgers has advocated for the rights of people with disabilities.

“Cole was with me on the House floor when we passed the ABLE Act, which marked a new chapter of opportunity and independence for people living with a disability,” she said.

In her statement, McMorris Rodgers didn’t give any indications what her next professional role would be, though she said, “I’ve decided the time has come to serve them [the people] in new ways.” During her remaining time in Congress, she said, “We will spend this year honoring the Committee’s rich history — plowing the hard ground necessary to legislate on solutions to make people’s lives better and ensure America wins the future.”

Her announcement opens the field for new candidates nine months before the election. Because the statement came as a surprise, no Republicans have yet stepped forward with intentions to run in the solidly-Republican district. Former Spokane County Democratic chair Carmela Conroy announced earlier this year she is running for the seat.

Copyright 2024 Spokane Public Radio. To see more, visit Spokane Public Radio.

Doug Nadvornick is the program director at Spokane Public Radio. He previously covered North Idaho and Eastern Washington for the Northwest News Network. Before that, he worked in commercial radio, weekly newspapers, and served as Spokane Public Radio's news director for about 17 years. He lives in Spokane and is a graduate of Washington State University.