The Fourth District is predominantly rural, and is considerably more conservative than the western part of the state. It has been dominated by the Republican Party for several decades; only three Democrats have ever represented the district. The last Democrat to represent the district was Jay Inslee, who held the seat during the 103rd Congress. Doc Hastings, Inslee's Republican opponent in 1992, defeated Inslee in a 1994 rematch and served in Congress until he retired in 2014. After losing to Hastings in 1994, Inslee later moved to Bainbridge Island and was sent back to Congress representing the First District in the central Puget Sound area. Inslee was elected the state's governor in 2012, and took office in January 2013. In the 2008 election, Hastings easily defeated challenger George Fearing.
In presidential elections, the 4th District is a Republican stronghold. George W. Bush carried the district in 2000 and 2004 with 62% and 63% of the vote, respectively. The 4th District also gave John McCain 58% of the vote in 2008, his strongest showing in Washington.