It was the campaign the 5th District voters deserved – the first great House race here in decades.

In almost every way, the contest between Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and challenger Lisa Brown has been a more positive, more passionate and less cynical electoral exercise than our current moment would give us the right to expect.

Travis Ridout.
Travis Ridout

“We’re just not used to having a competitive race,” said Travis Ridout, the Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Politics and Public Policy at Washington State University. “There was some excitement that we haven’t seen in a long time.”

Ridout credits the congressional race as the primary driver of the incredible early returns this year. The ballot was stacked with important stuff this time around – from gun-control initiatives to legislative races to that ingenious but overly complicated package of city-school projects – but the congressional race, connecting directly as it did to the Trump effect, was the top of the ticket.

“I think it’s been good for the district to have a real race,” Ridout said. “It forced the incumbent to pay attention to the district in a way she hasn’t had to in the last five, six, seven elections.”

The race was less nasty, overall, than I expected. There was definitely some kidney-punching and truth-twisting, but I’d have predicted more aggressive nastiness six months ago. I asked Ridout if he shared that view and he said he thought it had been “a little less negative” than usual – and offered some reasons.

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