Mark Trahant: Native candidates score in Washington primary vote

Election night win: Joe Pakootas moves on to the general election in November for Washington’s 5th congressional district. Photo from Facebook

#NativeVote16 – A win for Pakootas, legislative candidates in Washington
By Mark Trahant
Trahant Reports

It’s hard to read too much in a primary. That said: Joe Pakootas (Colville) did really well. The race shows that his opponent, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is more vulnerable than ever.

The numbers: McMorris Rodgers and Pakootas finished as the top two and will go on to the general election in November (Washington has a blanket primary so all candidates are on the ballot). McMorris Rodgers was first with 37,793 votes (there are a few more to be counted) while Pakootas earned 28,601. What’s interesting about that is that McMorris Rodgers did not earn a majority of the vote, the first time that’s happened since she has been an incumbent.

Ideally that would mean that Pakootas starts to tap into more fundraising nationally – especially from the Democratic Party apparatus. The best outcome would be for the party to add this race to the Red to Blue initiative so that donors across the country would get excited about the possibility of defeating a Republican in House leadership. Right now: The incumbent has a huge advantage, she’s raised some $2.4 million to Pakootas’ $166,729. But even with that margin Pakootas showed in the primary that he can be competitive. (Previous: Six Seats Democrats can win to flip Congress)

McMorris Rodgers has to deal with the Trump problem. How far do Republicans go defending their nominee? McMorris Rodgers may be all in. According to The Spokesman-Review she called for party unity saying it was necessary to defeat a “motivated” Democratic Party.

Pakootas is a former chairman of the Colville Tribes. He told his supporters via Facebook: “Thank you 5th Congressional District for your support! I am pleased to announce I am moving onto the General Election! Big thanks to my staff, family, and volunteers for their hard work!”

One note of caution: It’s hard to read too much into a primary because the number of voters are so few. Less than 92,000 people cast ballots (that’s always a reason to vote in primary elections, because your vote is worth more) compared to 232,242 in the last general election. Turnout was even smaller than the primary two years ago.

Also in this primary, Ronda Metcalf (Sauk-Suiattle) also will move on to the general election as a candidate for Representative in Legislative District 39 near Darrington, Washington. She will face Republican John Koster in November.

Sharlaine LaClair (Lummi) will also be on November’s ballot. She’s running in a district in Whatcom County that includes the Lummi Nation.

Rep. Jeff Morris (Tsimshian First Nations) was running unopposed to represent District 40 in Mount Vernon.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. To read more of his regular #NativeVote16 updates, follow On Facebook: TrahantReports On Twitter: @TrahantReports

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