U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Sunnyside Republican, is facing his first challenge from the left as he seeks re-election to Congress.
Christine Brown, a Tri-City Democrat and former KNDU TV news anchor, is challenging the two-term incumbent.
Newhouse previously faced Republican Clint Didier, a Franklin County farmer, in the 2014 and 2016 general elections.
But 2018 has brought a rise in Democratic candidates in the mid-Columbia.
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In the August primary, where they were the only candidates, Newhouse received 77,203 votes to Brown’s 44,868, or 63 percent to 34 percent.
Most local races for seats in the state legislature and in local governments feature a candidate from each party, an unusual development for conservative Eastern Washington.
In one of their first side-by-side encounters, Newhouse and Brown described similar goals to the Tri-City Herald’s Editorial Board, but different methods for attaining them.
Immigration reform and health care emerged as the top issues for both candidates, together with continued funding for the Hanford cleanup, improved border security, protecting the Columbia/Snake River dams and solving trade disputes
Both say they happily work across the political aisle to address issues that affect the vast 4th Congressional District, which covers central Washington from Canada to Oregon. Here’s a look at some of the topics they tackled:
Brown said the 4th District representative should have one of the loudest voices on the immigration debate.
The region relies on immigrant farm labor and demands a solution.
She said Newhouse missed an opportunity to advocate for young undocumented immigrants when he opted not to sign a discharge petition that would have sent the so-called “clean” bill addressing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to the floor for a vote.
“It’s really disappointing that DACA is out there,” she said.
Newhouse defended his move as a pragmatic one. President Donald Trump vowed to veto the bill if it reached his desk.
If he’d signed the discharge petition, he would have lost his place in the debate.
“I did not waste it with a symbolic vote,” he said.
He noted Democrats voted against a pair of immigration bills that reached the floor.
Both Brown and Newhouse agree on the central issue, that immigration reform is critical and should be coupled with an eventual crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers.
Newhouse is a co-sponsor for a farmworker bill that includes elements of immigration reform that includes a requirement that employers use E-Verify to ensure workers are legally allowed to work in the U.S.
Brown too advocates for reform coupled with an E-Verify mandate to halt people from crossing the border for work.
Brown said mandating E-Verify without first reforming the system would be a disaster. But Newhouse said that’s the aim of his farmworker bill.
“I agree with you Christine,” he said.
Brown said healthcare reform is her top issue and dominates her conversations on the campaign trail.
“$1,000 a month premiums and a $7,000 deduction is not health care,” she said. “People with no health insurance fear catastrophe.”
Brown supports a single-payer model. She has not endorsed “Medicare for all,” but cites it as a potential model for ensuring universal coverage.
She faulted Congress and Newhouse for repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, with no plan to replace it. She advocates healthcare for all.
Newhouse supported the repeal, saying he was acting on the wishes of his 4th District constituents. He said Congress did consider an alternative, the American Health Care Act, which lost by a vote in the Senate.
“I don’t think Americans are ready for government-run healthcare,” he said, calling a Medicare expansion fiscally irresponsible.
Newhouse said he supports language protecting those with preexisting conditions. His family changed insurance plans while his late wife was battling cancer. Not having insurance would have devastated the family, he said.
Newhouse said he supports increased border security and was struck by the cross-border traffic between the U.S. and Mexico during a recent visit to McAllen, Texas.
He defended the need to monitor who is crossing the border and protecting the homeland. While a wall might make sense in some areas, he is skeptical of a full-border structure.
“I don’t think we need a cement-iron structure from the gulf to the coast, not at all,” he said.
Brown called Trump’s border wall an impractical waste of money that could be spent to upgrade airports, bridges and other failing infrastructure.
She wants to follow existing asylum processes and end the practice of separating families at the border.
“People are very fixed on separations,” she said.
Both agree tough trade talk and retaliatory tariffs levied by Canada, Mexico and China, among others, have been damaging to Washington, which is one of the most trade-dependent states in the country.
Newhouse said he’s mindful that farmers are suffering and that the $12 billion aid package announced this summer can’t make every industry whole. But he’s supportive of the end goal: better trading deals with the country’s key trading partners. The U.S., Canada and Mexico have since agreed to a new trade agreement.
“This has to get done,” Newhouse said. “I will continue to press for a resolution.”
Brown said the Trump administration’s approach will have broad impacts on farmers and the broader economy.
“We face an administration that is working against us,” she said.
Ballots will be sent to voters on Oct. 19. The deadline to register is Oct. 8. Visit MyVote.com to register or update your registration.
Washington is a vote-by-mail state. Ballots must be postmarked by election day. Ballots include prepaid postage.