Whitman to Washington D.C.: Lisa Brown’s Grassroots Campaign

Claire Ommen, News Reporter

In 2018, the Congressional seat for the Fifth District of Washington will come up for election. This district encompasses most of Eastern Washington, Walla Walla included. On the evening of Monday, Feb. 26, democratic candidate Lisa Brown spoke at a community forum on Whitman’s campus.

Carson Jones
Lisa Brown (left) and FACE representative junior Georgia Lyon (right) at Monday’s town hall-style event.

This forum represents a key part of Brown’s campaign that many believe is an uphill-battle. Brown will be running against seven-time incumbent Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. It is certain that the McMorris-Rodgers campaign will out-fundraise the Brown campaign. Furthermore, the fifth district of Washington has a history of electing representatives who are members of the Republican party.

Brown addressed the voting history of the fifth district at the forum.

“The district is known as a red district, or as a conservative district. I think that the district is an independent district. I think it’s a district of people that value their freedoms, but also respect other people’s freedoms. I think it’s a district of people that are pretty open-minded when it comes to any particular election. They want to know what the two people think, they want to know what the two people have done–how they have delivered.”

The town-hall style meeting is critical to her grass-roots campaign. Brown stated during her short speech that both her campaign and her platform would be based on direct contact with constituents and on grass-roots politics. The forum at Whitman is just one of many such events which Brown’s campaign has attended in the last year. The Brown campaign has recently held similar events in other small towns–such as Pullman, Deer Park and Cheney–in the district.

“It’s that partnership between the grass-roots movement, the public, whose sentiments can change and evolve over time, and then the responsive elected leaders who are going to then take that moment and then move forward, and create a public laws and budgets that reflect our priorities.”

Carson Jones
Lisa Brown delivers a talk followed by a Q&A in Maxey. She stressed the importance of grassroots movements and argued that the Fifth-Dictrict could go blue in 2018.

The Brown Campaign deliberately chose to host this event at Whitman. This event was the culmination of several months of cooperation between Brown’s campaign, ASWC and Feminists Advocating Change and Empowerment (FACE). Brown’s campaign reached out to ASWC with the desire of holding a forum in Walla Walla in order to reach out to one of the pocket-liberal communities in Eastern Washington. Brown expressed the importance of political action by students, educators and health-care professionals to her campaign in a district that is dominated by smaller and traditionally-conservative towns. The population of Whitman–and students in general–tend to vote for Democratics, and thus they represent a key population for Brown’s campaign.

FACE representative and junior student Georgia Lyon stated that she felt Brown represented many issues that are important to Whitman students, including environmental protection, debt relief, affordable health-care, gun-control legislation and improved immigration policies. Lyon explained that FACE became involved in order to encourage political involvement amongst the student population.

“We’re bringing in this really strong, empowered woman, who has really served the state of Washington very well over the years, and we’re giving her the space and this time to talk in such a way that she can be more accessible to Whitman students and really show what she’s about.”

Carson Jones
Lisa Brown, a candidate for Washngton’s 5th congressional district discussing political issues of most importance with member of the Walla Walla Comunity

Additionally, Brown’s campaign for the 2018 election is important as it is part of a nation-wide movement by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) entitled Red-To-Blue. This movement targets “vulnerable” seats in the House of Representatives that are currently held by Republicans and attempts to elect members of the Democratic Party in their place. The ultimate goal of this project is to return majority control in Congress to the Democratic Party.

Several times throughout the event, Brown expressed the importance of her campaign in the fifth congressional district of Washington to this project. She linked this directly to the importance of individual actions by community members, connecting large-scale national government, key policy issues and her strategy of grass-roots involvement.

Whitman senior and President of ASWC AnnaMarie McCorvie echoed the importance of student action to Brown’s campaign.

“Most of us live here for four years and I think we owe this community more energy and a bigger commitment … Engaging in and voting in this race is one way to play a role in shaping the future of Walla Walla.”

Monday night’s forum represents a small step in Brown’s campaign. Meanwhile, Brown’s campaign represents a small part of the DCCC’s larger strategy to regain majority control in the House of Representatives. Regaining a majority in the House of Representatives is part of a grand-scale agenda by the Democratic party to shift the current tide in American politics. Brown’s forum was underpinned by a call-to-action, relating the importance of grass-roots politics to the greater political climate of the United States.

Carson Jones
Lisa Brown, a candidate for Washngton’s 5th congressional district discussing political issues of most importance with member of the Walla Walla Comunity