I was born and grew up in Washington’s rural Ferry County, in the northeastern corner of the state. In 2000, Republican Sen. Slade Gorton was narrowly defeated by ex-Democratic Congressman Maria Cantwell, who spent huge sums of money and yet carried only five urban counties in and around Seattle. The remaining 34 counties went to Gorton. While Bill Clinton carried the county narrowly in 1992 and 1996, George W. Bush carried it by an overwhelming margin in 2000.
This used to be Democratic country. I can remember when Ferry County voted for Al Smith for president in 1928. Later, it twice voted for Adlai Stevenson (1952 and 1956) against the popular hero Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has generally voted for Democratic senators and governors. Other counties in eastern Washington were not very different. Things have changed, however.
Ferry County is part of the second largest congressional district in the state (the 5th). For 25 years, it was represented by Democrat Tom Foley, who became speaker of the house. In 1994, however, he was defeated by “giant killer” Republican George Nethercutt, another indication of the shift in the political map. Nethercutt was reelected in 2002.
I write from Republic, the county seat, a town with a population of about 1,000. The whole county has about 7,000 souls. As I speculate on the results...