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Experts: President’s influence could be seen all over midterms

Political science professors offer their takes on this year’s election at WSU discussion.

There is no denying the midterm elections were heavily influenced by President Donald Trump, and while Democrats earned victories, the night ended better than Republicans feared, political experts said during a forum Wednesday at Washington State University.

Travis Ridout.
Mark Stephan.

Mark Stephan and Travis Ridout, professors in the WSU School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, and John Wilkerson, a professor in the University of Washington Department of Political Science, gave their opinion on the midterms to a crowd of more than 50 in an event organized by The Foley Institute.

The panel of experts also noted it is typical for the president’s party to lose seats in the house during an election, so this year was not unusual in that regard.

Across the country, political divisions were solidified even more. Stephan said Minnesota is now the only state in the country where the Legislature is divided by Republicans and Democrats. All other statehouses are controlled by one party.

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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Analysis: Why ‘a real race’ in Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Lisa Brown contest offered familiar November result

Ten million dollars, hours of television ads, truckloads of mailers and a handful of national news media stories later, Eastern Washington continues to be represented by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Republicans and political observers said Wednesday, after the dust settled, that the result shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Brown had been the presumptive Democratic candidate for months, even before that primary showing. On paper, she seemed the perfect candidate to run against McMorris Rodgers, a long-serving incumbent with a lengthy legislative record that Brown and her supporters could pick apart, said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy at Washington State University.

“I was sort of surprised, but not too surprised. I think Lisa didn’t run the kind of campaign she needed to beat Cathy,” Clayton said of Tuesday’s results. “I think she needed to go after Cathy’s record more.”

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McGill Redmen: U.S. scholar says name reinforces white settler society

Why do non-Indigenous sports teams steal the names and symbols of North America’s first peoples?

McGill University’s continued use of “Redmen” for its teams has many on campus grappling with that question. The name is considered an anti-Indigenous slur. When it emerged in the 1920s, the name Redmen was intended to describe the school’s signature colour, but many still find it offensive and point to McGill’s use of racist tropes over the years.

One expert says it is less about honouring Indigenous culture than reinforcing the view that white society has conquered First Nations.

“It’s the image of this historic Indian that white society defeated and bested and took his image as a trophy,” said Richard King, former Washington State University professor of ethnic and cultural studies. “It reinforces a vision of white settler society.”

King wrote the book Team Spirits: The Native American Mascot Controversy, and he’ll be speaking at McGill Thursday.

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Opinion: Shawn Vestal: At long last, a great race in the 5th District

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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Voting red, blue or purple? ‘Significant shift’ expected nationwide, but locally?

For the past 10 years, Chelan and Douglas county voters have mostly favored Republican candidates. There are pockets of blue in places like Leavenworth, south Wenatchee and Rock Island, but the two counties are mostly red.

Whether the trend continues remains to be seen until Tuesday’s election, which includes federal, state and local races.

Cornell Clayton.

I think the fundamentals suggest that you’re going to see a significant shift in favor of Democratic candidates” nationwide, said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University.

According to a Gallup poll for the week ending Sunday, President Donald Trump’s approval rating nationally was 40 percent.

Between that and successful fundraising efforts by Democrats, it looks like the odds are in that party’s favor, Clayton said. The party holding the presidency typically does worse in mid-term elections, he added.

Now, in many ways, it’s hard to predict just because we’re in sort of uncharted political waters with the Trump presidency and his intense base strategy, which he’s cranking up now,” he said.

That is clearly having some impact in terms of increasing motivation on the Republican side. If you look at the results so far of ballots cast to date … Republicans have a slight advantage there. And you would expect that, especially in red states. In a state like Washington where we’re so divided, it’s hard to tell how that will play out.”

Clayton said he’s noticed an increase in “purple” districts since the last mid-term election.

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