Races of the Week:McMorris vs. Barbieri

When prognosticators and polemicists began talking a decade ago about the “Year of the Woman” in politics, they were not referring to Margaret Thatcher. Rather, they were talking about a very narrow winning year for leftist, feminist Democratic women office-holders cut not from the cloth of a Thatcher but from, say, that of Washington State’s two Democratic Senators: Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

Face it: Given the biases of the national media against a conservative woman in high office, it is very difficult to be a Thatcher–or, for that matter, a Condoleezza Rice–without overpowering criticism and occasional ridicule. That’s why the election of Cathy McMorris to Congress from Washington State’s 5th District (Spokane) should be a priority for conservatives everywhere.

At a time when the term Republican is very often preceded by the word moderate when talking about office-holders in the Evergreen State, the 34-year-old McMorris is less like the current congressman from the 5th, GOP U.S. Senate nominee George Nethercutt, than she is like a well-known Spokane Republican of the post-war years: State Rep. Al Canwell, whose legislative probes into subversive activities are debated and discussed to this day. A descendant of pioneers who settled Eastern Washington, Cathy earned her B.A. from Pensacola Christian College and MBA from the University of Washington. She won election to the state House of Representatives at 24 and became the youngest-ever leader of either party in the House at 33. This year, at 34, she was nominated for Congress with a handsome 45% of the vote over two opponents.

It has been said that being a party leader in Congress or a state legislature forces one to move to the middle so as to barter, bargain, and compromise. Not so Cathy McMorris; like Margaret Thatcher, she maintained the strength of her early convictions after assuming the mantle of leadership, proclaiming her agenda was “to re-evaluate state government and how every dollar is spent.” Like Condoleezza Rice, she is forceful and pleasant in articulating her views (as well as a fellow pianist who performs for Christmas programs and local musicals). And she has the panache of Mrs. Emma Peel of “The Avengers.” As the primary sponsor of H 2420 to clarify firearms possession qualification in the state (after many citizens were inadvertently disqualified from ownership) and a sponsor of “case and carry” legislation, McMorris will often demonstrate her position by whipping out a small pistol from an ankle holster.

For all her good-as-Goldwater stands on issues from abortion to slashing bureaucracy, it’s difficult, as the Olympian reported, “to find anyone who will criticize McMorris on a personal level.”

Standing between McMorris and Congress is Democrat Don Barbieri, millionaire president of the Goodale and Barbieri real estate and property management firm. The 58-year-old Barbieri has also been a considerable donor to Democratic candidates over the years and a member of the Washington State Economic Development Board. As a board member, Barbieri once declared that “taxes should grow with the economy and personal income.” In further contrast to his across-the-board anti-tax opponent, Barbieri, while on the same board, suggested that the state adopt a business profits tax. Part of the board’s “Vision” for education included a hypothetical school in 2008 where no grades would be issued and where students would learn at their own pace–a striking difference from the views of McMorris, who is a forceful advocate of local control of schools and of pilot programs for vouchers.

Yes, the contrasts between McMorris and Baribieri are sharp, and it is clear that the youthful conservative is far more in line with a district that gave George W. Bush 55% of its votes four years ago. But personal wealth and the contacts to raise more funds can indeed spell the difference in a race. Baribieri has them and McMorris doesn’t, hence the strong case for conservatives to rally behind Cathy McMorris, a leader for tomorrow.