INTERVIEW: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Women, Work, and Politics
Ten-year Congressional veteran Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represents eastern Washington State, is the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House of Representatives . Last January, Rodgers delivered the rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address. Recently, I had a chance to interview her. Among other things, we talked about what it's like to be a working mother on Capitol Hill and about her outlook for women in the GOP.
Grace Hwang Lynch: Tell me a little about you got started in politics and how you’ve risen to being the chair of the House Republican Conference, making you the highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress?
Cathy McMorris Rodgers: I got involved in politics right out of college, working on a family friend's campaign for the state House in Washington State. He won his race, and offered me a job. That was really the beginning. What I saw was that, in politics and running for office, being involved in these issues that mean very much to your community, you can make a difference, as far as impacting people’s lives for the better and creating more opportunities at all levels of government.
And I found lot of fulfillment in working for another elected official. Three years later, my boss was appointed to fill a seat in the state Senate, and he encouraged me to seek the appointment in the state House. That was the beginning of me becoming an elected representative, and I’m very honored to serve the people. People often ask, "What inspires you?" and it really is the people. Whenever I am home in eastern Washington, it is the people who really pump me up and make me want to work harder on their behalf.
I served for 10 years in the state House, and became the minority leader for the Republicans after the 2002 elections. Serving in the state House is very part time in Washington. We’re in session from January to March or April, so I stayed involved in our family business. We had an orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, north of Spokane, and it was a nice mix to be able to be at the orchard and involved in the business in the summer and fall months. And then I went back to school, got my Executive MBA—thinking that I was going to get out of politics, actually. And instead, there was an open seat for Congress, and again the former Congressman George Nethercutt called me one day and encouraged me to consider running for Congress.