Democrats eye potential flip in 8th Congressional District

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Democrats' hopes to topple the highest ranking GOP woman in the U.S. House were dashed Tuesday as Republican incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was re-elected to her eighth term in Congress, but a Democratic lead in a long-held Republican seat gave them hope to increase the party's margin in its newfound control of the chamber.

Democrats won the 218 seats they needed to seize control of the House, and their wins included suburban districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 but were held by a Republican incumbent.

They are hoping to pick up another in the open seat in the 8th Congressional District, where Dr. Kim Schrier, a Democrat and pediatrician, had captured about 53 percent of the vote in early returns Tuesday over Republican Dino Rossi, a former state senator who had previous unsuccessful runs for governor and the U.S. Senate.

Because Washington is a vote-by-mail state, additional votes are still being counted, and updates are expected late Wednesday afternoon.

Independent pollster Stuart Elway said Schrier's lead in the open seat in the 8th Congressional District — which Clinton won but has been held by a Republican since it was created in the early 1980s — is "a classic pattern of the national trend."

The district spans from the far eastern Seattle suburbs across the Cascade Mountains.

Rossi was leading in four of the district's five counties, but Schrier was dominating in King, which has twice as many votes as the other four counties combined.

Tina Podlodowski, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said Wednesday that the numbers show that Democratic voters are moving to different parts of the state, "particularly into those suburbs and into the rural areas in the 8th."

"I think what you're seeing is a change from Seattle being the center of the universe for Democrats," she said.

Elway, who had a poll last month showing support for Rossi spike after the nomination hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, said that "there was a real tremor in the force" right at the time his poll had showed Rossi ahead by 10.

"It didn't sustain in the 8th District, but nationally that's what energized a lot of Republicans," he said.

Republican support stayed strong in the 5th Congressional District, where McMorris Rodgers, who ranks fourth in House leadership, captured more than 55 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger, Lisa Brown, a former state Senate leader.

The district, centered in Spokane, has not elected a Democrat since former House Speaker Tom Foley last won in 1992.

Another targeted Republican incumbent, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, was also leading her Democratic challenger, Carolyn Long, in southwestern Washington. Herrera Beutler had about 52 percent of the vote over Long, a political science professor at Washington State University's campus in Vancouver.

Currently there are six Democrats and four Republicans in the state's House delegation. The other seven incumbents were all easily re-elected: Democratic Reps. Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Adam Smith, Denny Heck and Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse.