Influential Statesman George Nethercutt: A Legacy Remembered

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The profound impact of George Nethercutt’s political career, stretching from the roaring waves of the 1994 GOP landslide to the domestic halls of Spokane County, was commemorated by the news of his passing. The former U.S. representative, who reinvented his career from Spokane attorney to politically influential figure, died at the age of 79. Known for unseating the formidable Democratic Speaker of the House, Tom Foley, Nethercutt was a linchpin in the startling turn of national politics towards the right during the noted Republican resurgence of the mid-1990s.

This reputed statesman succumbed to progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurodegenerative brain disease, in the region of Denver on Friday according to a bereaved e-mail sent by his son, Elliot Nethercutt on Monday. “He lived a life based in faith, family, community, and service, never sacrificing his principles as a statesman,” his son eloquently wrote as a tribute.

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The former chairperson of the Spokane County Republican Party, Nethercutt had cut his political teeth serving as the chief of staff for Alaska Senator Ted Stevens in the 1970s. Yet, he didn’t step into the electoral arena until he challenged Foley, an established name who had represented the district for 30 years, with the last five served as Speaker of the House.

Nethercutt’s successful campaign hinged on his highlighting Foley’s long-standing opposition to term limits and his long tenure in the office, symbolically referencing the hit TV show, “Bonanza”. This marked the first defeat of a serving Speaker since the Civil War era.

As a freshman congressman, Nethercutt joined the ranks of the Republican revolutionaries, signing the Contract With America. This contract, advertised extensively by prominent figures such as Newt Gingrich, proposed an array of conservative policies, most notably the imposition of term limits.

Though he pledged to serve no more than three terms, Nethercutt’s commitment to this cause somewhat flickered as he served an extended five terms before his unsuccessful bid against Democratic Senator Patty Murray in 2004.

His time in the House was marked by conservative voting, active support for impeachment proceedings against Clinton, and a keen focus on promoting the interests of Eastern Washington. Beyond politics, Nethercutt’s heart remained tethered to Spokane County, as evident in his earnest endeavors in championing local causes such as securing funding for Fairchild Air Force Base and supporting research grants for Washington State University.

Once his congressional-sojourn concluded, Nethercutt turned his talents towards lobbying, using his namesake foundation to foster civic education through scholarships, competitions, and educational trips to Washington.

Born in 1944 in Spokane, Nethercutt graduated from Washington State University and later Gonzaga University School of Law. While at law school, Nethercutt served as a clerk for Ralph Foley, Tom Foley’s father and a Spokane County Superior Judge.

Leaving behind his wife, Mary Beth Nethercutt, whom he married in 1977, two children Meredith Nethercutt Krisher and Elliot Nethercutt, his siblings Nancy Nethercutt and John Irving Nethercutt, and his adored granddaughter, Holly Beth Krisher, Nethercutt is fondly remembered for his remarkable journey from Spokane attorney to influential figure of national politics.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.