Washington’s 5th Congressional District takes up the eastern end of the state. It starts at the Canadian borders, runs down to include the city of Spokane, and ends touching the Oregon border:
While the district certainly takes in many rural areas, roughly 80% of the votes cast there come from Spokane County (the largest city in the district having the same name) and Whitman County (Pullman). The third major source of votes in WA-05 is Walla Walla County, again which houses a city of the same name.
Since 2005, this district has been held by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has risen to chair the House Republican Conference. McMorris Rodgers has never faced an especially close general election in this seat; the President carried it by about 15%, so the area generally favors Republicans. This year, though, local Democrats are hoping to take advantage of the national environment. They recruited former State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, who hails from Spokane.
In last month’s blanket primary, McMorris Rodgers led the five-way field with 49%. Brown, the sole Democrat, took just over 45%. The third-place finisher, Dave Saulibio, ran as a Trump Populist, with two Republicans taking the rest:
Compared to 2016, Brown’s result was better than Clinton’s, who took 39%, but worse than Sen. Patty Murray’s (D). She was reelected with 59% in 2016, and took 48% in WA-05. Brown took about 49% in Spokane and Whitman, and was about 7% behind McMorris Rodgers in Walla Walla.
Combining the parties, things look a bit better for the GOP. (Saulibio ran as a Trump populist, but for the purposes of this, I considered him a Republican) Republican candidates would have taken more votes in every county:
In the Senate race, which was also on the ballot, Sen. Maria Cantwell took 55% in a (very) crowded primary. Of the nearly 30 other candidates, state Republican leader Susan Hutchison finished next, with 25%. In WA-05, both candidates did somewhat worse than what they received statewide; Cantwell took 47%, and Hutchison got 21%:
Not surprisingly, since the rest of the votes were so fractured, Cantwell placed first in all but Lincoln County. She finished about 30% ahead of Hutchison in Spokane and Whitman Counties, and about 24% ahead in Walla Walla.
The combined party vote actually looks considerably better here for Democrats than the Congressional result. While Republicans took 54.6% of the House vote, Democrats finished ahead in the Senate contest by a 50/46 margin. Senate Democratic candidates carried all three of the most populous counties, plus general did better than House Democrats (really only Brown) in the rurals:
So why was the Senate picture much better for Democrats than the House result? Districtwide, there were 116 precincts where Democrats combined for more votes in the Senate race, but went to House Republicans in the Congressional primary. These crossover precincts are pink here; many of them are in Spokane County:
Going forward, these pink precincts could likely decide the winner of the Congressional race. Sen. Cantwell narrowly missed carrying WA-05 in 2012, though did in 2006. If she carries it again, will it be enough to give Brown the boost she needs?
Special thanks to John Mifflin (@JohnMifflin2), for providing the data that I used for these maps.