Powerhouse Politician George Nethercutt Passes Away at 79


A historical icon in the realm of U.S power politics, George Nethercutt, has passed away at the mellow age of 79. Nethercutt, the lawyer from Spokane who moved mountains in political arenas without the backing of any significant political experience, is prominently remembered for his headline-making feat of toppling Democratic Speaker of the House Tom Foley in 1994, contributing substantially to the Republican wave ushering in a rightward shift in national politics.

His final days were spent near Denver, where he fell to his battle with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare, neurodegenerative brain condition, as divulged by his son in correspondence earlier in the week.

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Remembering his father’s life, Elliott Nethercutt found words that perfectly encapsulated his essence, “He lived a life based in faith, family, community, and service, never sacrificing his principles as a statesman.”

The oscillation of political power in 1994, echoed across the nation in what was then President Bill Clinton’s initial term, saw an unprecedented victory for the Republicans as control over both houses of Congress fell into their hands, the first time since the early 50s.

With a pedigree of political experience that boasted roles such as the chairmanship of the Spokane County Republican Party and an assignment as chief of staff to esteemed Alaska Senator, Ted Stevens, Nethercutt certainly demonstrated aptitude. Yet, it wasn’t until he challenged Foley that he would lay his own claim to office.

Despite representing the district for over 30 years, Foley found himself disarmed by Nethercutt’s campaign ads that harped on his opposition to term limits, jesting that Foley had held office since the Western drama of ‘Bonanza’ dominated television ratings. Nethercutt’s strategy struck a chord, making Foley the first speaker since 1860 to lose a reelection bid.

Among Nethercutt’s signatures was his commitment to the Contract With America, a manifesto of conservative objectives spearheaded by the likes of Rep. Newt Gingrich and others. At its heart was an advocacy for term limits, swearing himself to serve a mere three terms. However, he would later revise this pledge, ultimately serving five terms before conceding defeat in a race against Democratic Senator Patty Murray in 2004.

Nethercutt, in a touching tribute penned by current incumbent Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, was identified as “a giant amongst men” who bore the responsibility of catering to the needs of Eastern Washington with a blend of honor and patriotism. He led with compassion and relentless conviction, she asserted, staying true to character throughout his years of service.

Spending a decade in office, Nethercutt emerged as a staple Republican with his headphones firmly cordoned to conservative ideologies, most notably backing the impeachment of Clinton over his notorious affair with Monica Lewinsky. Post-tenure, Nethercutt found work as a lobbyist and oversaw the George Nethercutt Foundation, a resource for civic education.

Outside the political sphere, Nethercutt was a learned gentleman, attending memorial services, participating in advisory boards of prestigious institutions, and pledging funds in the pursuit of civic virtue.

Born in 1944 in Spokane, Nethercutt spent his early years graduating from Washington State University before acquiring a law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1971. He had a brief bout of clerkship under Ralph Foley, who served as a judge for Spokane County Superior Court and notably, was the father of Foley the politician Nethercutt would later unseat.

Remembered by his wife, Mary Beth Nethercutt, his two children, sibling and grandchild, Nethercutt’s legacy stretches far beyond his political accomplishments, living on in the hearts of his loved ones for eternity.