Lisa Brown is toughest Democratic candidate since the ’90s
The state’s 5th Congressional District hasn’t been represented by a Democrat since 1995, before most Gonzaga students were born.
Lisa Brown, the former state legislator of 20 years, wants to change that.
In the August primary, Brown finished less than four points behind incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.
McMorris-Rodgers hasn’t lost a primary since her first congressional campaign in 2004, when three Republicans ran against one Democrat.
“I was expecting the primary to show a competitive race,” Brown said.
Brown said growing dysfunction in D.C. and potential threats to health care inspired her to run.
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” she said. “You can work together to bring things forward.”
In May 2017, McMorris-Rodgers voted for the American Health Care Act, a bill that opponents said would dismantle the Affordable Care Act. She was one of two of the state’s four House Republicans to vote for the bill that failed in the Senate.
“That would’ve been very dangerous to the district,” Brown said.
When it comes to school safety, Brown said common sense gun control, coupled with increased mental health resources are crucial. She supports closing gun loopholes and restricting high-capacity magazines and bump stocks.
“That needs to happen,” she said. “We’ve been suffering as a nation.”
Affordable housing is a major issue in the district, Brown said. She said the city is growing in positive ways, anchored by health care and what she called an expanding art economy. However, Brown said Spokane’s rising housing costs are hurting many.
“We also need to make sure we don’t leave people behind,” she said.
Brown said maintaining the state’s agricultural economy is another priority. She added President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs aren’t helping.
“We are threatened more by the administration’s poor trade choices than any other part of the country,” she said.
Before her run for office, Brown served as the chancellor of Washington State University, Spokane for four years.
She said she’s concerned about the rising cost of tuition. Local universities, she added, are integral to the district’s growth and education needs to be affordable. She cited strengthening Pell Grants and debt forgiveness, as well as refinancing student loans as ways to ease student debt.
“You can refinance your car or a house, but you can’t refinance your student loans,” she said. “I think that would benefit communities, as well as students.”
On the national level, Brown said she’s concerned about the repeal of DACA and the border.
Additionally, she said the Trump-Russia investigation needs to be protected from interference.
“I certainly believe no one is above the law,” she said.
Financially, Brown is outperforming most of the Democrats that preceded her.
According to the Federal Elections Commission, Brown has raised $2.4 million as of Tuesday. Her campaign has about $1 million available.
“I’m not taking corporate PAC funding,” Brown said. “It’s not transparent. People are looking for an independent voice.”
This election marks the first time since 2006 that a Democrat raised more than $1 million in the 5th District.
Joe Pakootas, the democrat who ran for the seat in 2016, raised less than $350,000.
Rep. McMorris-Rodgers fights for eighth term
Washington and Washington, D.C. need Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.
Those were the words of Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Spokane for a fundrasiser for the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress.
After seven terms representing the 5th District, McMorris-Rodgers, is approaching what will likely be her closest bout yet.
The congresswoman said the district is seeing great growth, fueled by education and health care.
“As long as I’ve lived in Eastern Washington, there’s been this sense that we had great universities and colleges, but to get that good-paying job, you had to leave Eastern Washington,” McMorris-Rodgers said.
“To be able to live the Eastern Washington dream is becoming more of a reality and that’s really exciting to me.”
Local educational institutions, McMorris-Rodgers said, are helping lead the district’s growth.
“In Eastern Washington, we have amazing diversity of higher education opportunities; with apprenticeship, community college, private and public universities, leaders of the country,” she said. “We should cherish what we have and celebrate it and make sure we continue to have that diversity.”
In the wake of mass shootings, McMorris-Rodgers said she’s concerned about school safety. She added increasing mental health counselors, resource officers and training are ways to help.
In June, Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit formed by families affected by the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, awarded McMorris-Rodgers for her support of a bill that funds school safety programs. The congresswoman also earned an A rating, endorsement and campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. She was the only member of the House to be honored.
McMorris-Rodgers, a first-generaton college student, said her campaign is focused on the rising cost of tuition.
She cited votes to expand Pell Grants, as well as the creation of the Perkins Loan for first-generation, low-to-middle-income students as accomplishments for students.
She added she supports refinancing student loans.
“Those options need to be available to students,” McMorris-Rodgers said.
Partisanship in D.C. is another issue for McMorris-Rodgers. She said she’s working to bring both parties together.
“It takes each one of us to do our part,” she said.
After the 2016 presidential election, she started hosting “Unity Dinners,” where leaders in the district from different political parties would share a meal and discuss solutions to community issues.
“Unity does not mean uniformity,” she said. “Unity means wanting the best for each other.”
McMorris-Rodgers said the dinners occur every two-to-three weeks. She added the dinners made their way to D.C. in February, when a group of Congress members on both sides of the aisle hosted a dinner. She added a small group still gets together for the dinners.
Additionally, McMorris-Rodgers took part in a roundtable at GU last spring. Attendees included Mayor David Condon, as well as different religious, social and political groups in Spokane.
Forest management and clean energy are other issues the congresswoman said she’s working on.
“Our forests are vulnerable right now,” she said.
She said her work on forest legislation is going to be emulated across the state.
Tax incentives and licensing regulation for clean energies have leveled the playing field, she added.
Financially, McMorris-Rodgers has raised nearly $4 million, as of Tuesday. That’s the highest total of her political career. Her campaign has about $1.2 million available.
Joseph Thompson is the editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeyJThomp.