A Tale of a Seat--GA CD6
The 6th Congressional District of the State of Georgia has had an outsize influence on the U.S. House of Representatives for decades through the men it has sent there. For twenty years (1979-1999) Georgia's CD6 was held by Newt Gingrich. Gingrich succeeded Tom Foley as Speaker of the House (1995-1999) after Foley fell to Nethercutt in 1994. Gingrich was the author of the infamous "Contract with American." He is arguably the man most responsible for pulling the Republican Party toward the flapping right fringe...and for the poisonous political polarization from which we now suffer. (More on him in a later post.) Gingrich's stepping into Foley's shoes is only one of several places were GA-CD6 and WA-CD5 (i.e. we in eastern Washington) intersect.
Georgia CD6 elected Dr. Tom Price to the House in 2004, the same year McMorris Rodgers sailed into Congress on George Nethercutt's coattails. Dr. Price, an orthopedist turned politician, was a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act starting with its becoming law in 2010. In the 2012 presidential election, after Price had served four terms, he faced a redrawn district following the 2010 census. No problem. The redrawing left him with a district political analysts judged had only shifted 3 points from a Republican lean of 66% to 63%. It was secure enough for Dr. Price to retain his seat in 2012 with 65% of the vote, in 2014 with 66%, and 2016 with 62% regardless of the new boundaries.
McMorris Rodgers ran unopposed for vice-chair of the House Republican Conference in 2009 (after Barack Obama's first win). From that position, as a young, supposedly tech savvy up-and-comer, she was instrumental in "expand[ing] the party's digital imprint." In late 2012 the Republicans were reeling from the re-election of Barak Obama, a re-election fueled in part by a 18 point lead with female voters. From her position as vice chair McMorris Rodgers saw her chance: She bid to become chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the position for which she was touted as "the most powerful Republican woman in the country" for several elections, including the most recent one. In vying to become chairwoman she was at the time one of only 24 Republican woman serving in Congress (there will be even fewer come 2019, 17, maybe less, depending on re-counts).
McMorris Rodgers' opposition for the chairmanship position's closed door vote in late 2012 was none other than Dr. Tom Price of Georgia's CD6, an old (15 years her senior) white man, precisely the image the voters had just rejected nationwide. (see The Atlantic, September 19, 2014.)
Despite his loss to McMorris Rodgers for the chairmanship, Dr. Price's CD6 seat seemed secure following re-elections in 2014 and 2016 by margins greater than 20 percent. Trump's handlers must have had that in mind when, in February 2017, Trump appointed Price to oversee dismantling the Affordable Care Act as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price lasted just seven months, resigning amid scandals involving a million dollars of taxpayer money spent on private jets and major conflicts of interest surrounding his dealings in health care stocks. (wikipedia)
Do you remember the young (31yo), well-spoken Democrat, Jon Ossoff, who ran against a Republican woman (age 56), Karen Handel (Georgia's Secretary of State), to replace Tom Price in GA CD6? In a widely watched Special Election held June 20, 2017 Handel won by around 7000 votes on a base of votes cast of 260,000, a spread of under four percentage points. Handel's victory over Ossoff was a major disappointment...but last week the Democrats got their revenge: Karen Handel (R) (after just 17 months in office) lost the Georgia CD6 seat to Lucy McBath (D) a black 58 yo gun control advocate who has never held public office. The margin of victory was only a little over 3,000 votes, but, get this, turnout was high, with nearly 317,000 votes cast, 57,000 more than in the Special Election.
We will take our victories where we find them. This is one is worth savoring...
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. More on the home front, as McMorris Rodgers' star slowly sinks toward the horizon, she stands to be replaced as Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference by another of the dwindling number of Republican U.S. Representatives, Liz Cheney (R-WY). Ms. Cheney is the daughter of the former Vice President to GW Bush, Dick Cheney. She has served in public office only since January 3, 2017 when she was elected to U.S. House. She is a former Fox News contributor who has been a substitute host for the Hannity show. Ms. Cheney is the single Representative from the State of Wyoming, representing the small and deeply conservative population of the state, only 580,000 people (compared to the national average of 733,000). From this secure minor perch, Liz Cheney can serve as more of a attack dog for Trump than McMorris Rodgers could. You can read more of Ms. Cheney's hyper-partisanship in her wikipedia biography.