June 16, 2024

Former WA Congressman George Nethercutt dies at 79

The architect of one of the most intriguing political stories of recent decades has passed away at the age of 79.

As the Spokesman-Review reports, former Washington Congressman George Nethercutt Jr, the so-called “giant killer” of Republican politics, died after a lengthy battle with a progressive neurological disease.

From local politician to the halls of Congress

Nethercutt was a lawyer by trade and served as a county Republican Party official who shocked the country three decades ago by ousting a sitting speaker of the House.

With his triumph over then-Speaker Tom Foley in 1994, Nethercutt was seen as the embodiment of the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994.

Nethercutt was an underdog in that race in the truest sense of the word, having never sought elected office on such a scale before, though he had held prominent roles in the office of former Sen. Ted Stevens as well as with various GOP campaigns.

After an intense yet respectful campaign battle with Foley, Nethercutt prevailed to become the first politician to beat a sitting House speaker seeking re-election since the Civil War, going on to sit on the influential Appropriations Committee, an honor rarely given to freshman lawmakers.

During his time in Congress, Nethercutt traveled home to Washington several times per month and focused his energies on issues areas that included national defense, farming, and forestry, also earning the respect of colleagues for his role in co-founding the Congressional Diabetes Caucus centered on the very disease from which his own daughter suffered.

Tributes pour in

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who campaigned for Nethercutt during his first run for office, declared the late lawmaker “just a genuinely good person.”

“He was called to serve and did so with grace and compassion throughout his career,” Boehner added.

Former Nethercutt staffer and political veteran Ken Lisaius noted that after he left Congress, the well-loved lawmaker devoted his energies to a civics-based foundation and authored a book about patriotic music, saying, “He didn't dedicate his time to politics, he dedicated it to civics. He said civics brings people together, politics divides them.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington also honored the late congressman, stating, “My heart is sad. George Nethercutt was a giant amongst men who served the people of Eastern Washington with honor and patriotism for a decade.”

“George was a man of character who led with kindness and conviction,” she added, and that is a legacy toward which all Americans would do well to strive.

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