Photo courtesy of Christine Brown
Christine Brown

By Solveig Torvik

Christine Brown, Democratic challenger to the 4th Congressional District’s incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, outlined her priorities in the Methow Valley Community Center Friday evening (Aug. 18), and acknowledged she is facing “an uphill fight.”

In a rare appearance in the Methow of a candidate seeking votes for national office, Brown said she decided to run for Congress because “I’m fearful for our democracy … Trump has exceeded my expectations,” she wryly told an audience of about 60 people.

The Democratic Party openly has admitted that for years it “ceded” Eastern Washington, Brown told the Methow Valley News. In 2016, Newhouse won a second term to the 4th district seat by a 15-point margin.

But Donald Trump’s presidency has changed things, according to Brown, who is the only Democrat so far to file in the 4th District. Trump is “quite a worry to a lot of people,” said Brown, a 30-year veteran of Yakima and Tri-Cities television news broadcasting.

It’s time for people in Eastern Washington to be offered more than one view of issues and have only one party choice on the ballot, Brown argued. In a turnaround of previous party strategy, the Democratic Party’s new state chair, Tina Podlodowski, recently vowed to contest every race east of the Cascades.

The biggest applause of the evening came when Brown, who in an apparent jab at Newhouse, stressed her “independent” approach to evaluating issues. “I will not be taking my orders from the Democratic Party,” she said.

At Friday’s town hall, Brown described her top three issues as health care for all, economic equity and immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.

Her website also lists a fourth, climate change. “I believe in science. Climate change is real and must be addressed,” it states.  Asked about climate change at the meeting, she answered that she considers it the biggest threat facing the world. “I support all types of renewable energy,” she said.

Immigration reform “is a humanitarian issue” as well as an economic one, Brown told the audience. She cited the dependence of the district’s agricultural and hospitality industry on undocumented residents, some of whom the Trump administration threatens to deport.

“I believe we need these people,” she said, adding that she opposes using religion as a reason to exclude immigrants. Her website states that she rejects a Muslim ban and registry.

She proposed that undocumented residents be given one year to apply for “a status of documentation” that would trigger a verification process that could lead to citizenship. If undocumented residents fail to apply at that point, they would be subject to deportation.

Brown warned of growing risks to consumers, like those faced during the the 2008 financial collapse, if Republicans undo the Dodd-Frank consumer protection legislation, which placed major regulations on the banking and finance industries.

“I worry about greed,” she said.

As for health care, she said the Affordable Care Act needs improvement, but not the Republican repeal effort that Newhouse supported. In response to a question from the audience, Brown said she supports single payer insurance coverage. The United States should learn from other countries how to provide health care for all citizens, she added.

Brown, 67, worked as a reporter, producer, anchor, news director and station manager. She was employed by the Yakima County Human Services Department for seven years before switching to journalism.  After graduating from Central Washington University in 1975, she spent three months in a work-study program at the Purdy Treatment Center for women in Gig Harbor.

According to her website, her experience reporting on issues affecting residents of the Yakima Valley and Columbia Basin, the district’s two largest population centers, gives her a “knowledgeable and diverse perspective on critical concerns our communities face.”

She pledges transparency if elected, promising to hold town halls and to disclose the number of calls, emails and letters — pro and con — received on issues: “I will be open to change my mind on an issue based on new information.”

Brown is the mother of two grown children and has served as a guardian ad litem for children in the court system.