- Associated Press - Friday, December 9, 2016

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - With Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington a candidate to be a member of the cabinet of President-elect Donald Trump, politicians are already scrambling to possibly replace her in Congress.

McMorris Rodgers emerged as a leading contender to head the Interior Department, according to a person involved in the transition.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, a Democrat, immediately threw his hat into the ring Friday.

“I will represent the interests of Eastern Washington residents - not the political philosophy of powerful D.C. elites,” Stuckart said.

Stuckart would be the first Democrat to represent the conservative 5th Congressional District since Tom Foley, who rose to become Speaker of the House before he was voted out in 1994.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, a Republican, is also interested in an open seat.

“Family just said go for it,” Knezovich tweeted Friday.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican from Spokane, also said he would run if McMorris Rodgers is picked for the cabinet.

McMorris Rodgers, 47, is a conservative who won the open House seat in 2004 and has been easily re-elected since, typically getting 60 percent of the vote.

Known to her constituents as Cathy, McMoRo or CMR, she won a seventh term last month despite persistent criticism that she advocates against the interests of many of the poor, rural residents of her district.

She has been mentioned as a possible Interior secretary after she met with Trump on Nov. 20, and is also a vice chairwoman of the 13-member Trump transition executive committee.

The Interior Department has 70,000 employees and a $12 billion annual budget. It is responsible for federal lands management, including coal leases, offshore drilling and national parks.

McMorris Rodgers has long opposed many environmental protections and supported extraction industries.

Specifically, she has opposed recovery of wolf populations in the Northwest, opposed removal of four dams on the Snake River to help wild salmon and opposed many provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

If she leaves office before March 7, a special election would be called to fill the seat sometime this spring or summer.

If her resignation occurs after March 7 but before May 15, the campaign would occur during the 2017 general election, with voters choosing a replacement in November.

If her resignation comes after May 15, the seat would remain vacant until after the general election.

McMorris Rodgers was born in Salem, Oregon, on May 26, 1969. At age 5, she moved with her family to a farm in Hazelton, British Columbia. A decade later, the family moved to Kettle Falls, Washington, and established an orchard and fruit stand business.

In 1990 she graduated from Pensacola Christian College. She earned an Executive MBA from the University of Washington in 2002.

McMorris was hired by State Rep. Bob Morton in 1991, serving as his legislative assistant.

She was appointed to the Washington House of Representatives in 1994, filling a vacancy left when Morton was appointed to the state Senate.

After serving ten years in the Washington House, McMorris in 2004 won the open seat left when Republican U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt - who had defeated Foley in 1994 - ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

She has easily won re-election since, and rose to become chair of the House Republican Conference, making her the fourth-ranked Republican in the House and highest ranked GOP woman.


Associated Press writer Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.

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