U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Sunnyside, is seeking a fourth term representing the 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the primary, he will face five challengers: Doug McKinley, a Democrat from Richland; Sarena Sloot, a Republican from Kennewick; Tracy “Justice” Wright, a Republican from Grand Coulee; Ryan Cooper, a Libertarian from Pasco and Evan “Ev” Jones, a Independent from Richland.
In recent months, Congress has had to address calls for police reform amid acts of excessive force by police nationwide as well as immigration, which the Trump administration has limited lately. The candidates provided their thoughts on these issues.
Sloot was not available to answer questions prior to publication.
How can Congress best reform policing?
Jones: If there are entire communities where the pursuit of peace and prosperity in their daily life is not enhanced by the people who swore to serve and protect them, we have a broken model.
Let’s start where the progress could be. We can think of other ways to approach issues that don’t require a law enforcement, such as drug use or mental health issues. When I lived in Virginia, I had a job as a public ombudsman, where I would serve as an arbitrator when two neighbors had a problem. Before, that police would be sent out in those situations.
Let’s not talk defunding, let’s talk about refunding community peace and safety and not always going to law enforcement.
Newhouse: I do not subscribe to the idea of defunding our police. We need a strong law enforcement presence to maintain peace to protect and serve our communities. I do think we need to look at how police forces around the country engage with their communities, so a person’s first encounter with police is not a negative situation but a more positive one. The good thing is many communities in Central Washington are already doing some of those kinds of community engagement efforts.
I do not want to take tools away from officers to make sure they’re safe in the job they have to do, but I also want to make sure the safety of the public they’re dealing with is a primary concern as well. I will scrutinize the kind of things we require of police departments and make sure they have the tools to do the job, but without putting their lives or the lives of the people they’re interacting with at risk.
Wright: I’m all about accountability, and police unions are not about that. I think any police union that hasn’t already fired officers who have at least three strikes or three complaints of extreme force are the problem. We need to fire all those cops who have the problem of using excessive force. We need to get rid of unions that have bad cops and police leaders who are bad cops.
I’m against civil asset forfeiture, where law enforcement takes assets from those alleged to be involved with crime or illegal activity. Through this, we have highway patrol that cites the use of drugs or the smell of drugs to target the poor and young though such action. I’m for police who are protecting those who kill and steal, but they should not kill and steal either.
Cooper: These no-knock raids are unconstitutional. The Patriot Act is unconstitutional. We need to stop spying on people. We need to stop the war on drugs — this whole need for police to go after drug dealers to seize assets.
End qualified immunity for police. It’s wrong to make taxpayers pay for police brutality. Police unions have way too much power. They are the one organization that can hold a city hostage. You don’t need these massive police departments to control communities. These police departments have these contracts and make insane amounts of money, and they’re far away from the people they’re patrolling.
Yes, there is systematic racism. Can we do more to stop it? The trick is to get the government out of the way. I think the government is a bigger problem than the individual. We are more race-conscious than before, but you have government policies that create division.
McKinley: It’s a difficult subject. Your typical law enforcement officer is not looking to infringe on people’s rights or racially target people. That officer is not looking to kill someone over a petty crime. But at the same time, there are those bad actors out there.
Every so often, there will be a story about a police officer who does something outrageous, harms someone, kills someone, something that gets them investigated. What they’ll find is they were a member of some racist Facebook group where they demonstrated white supremacy. You can’t afford to have people with that worldview participating in the force. One thing I would strongly promote is more intensive background checks and a willingness to say, if you’re a member of the KKK, you can’t be part of the police force, especially a police force patrolling an African American community. If you put a white supremacist in the police force policing a community of color, I don’t have any confidence that officer is going to behave in a matter that’s fair. You need to weed those people out.
What does Congress need to do with immigration reform?
Cooper: One, let’s not demonize people and accuse people of being terrible human beings. Immigrants come to this country to work. We need a bond system. A company that needs workers can post a bond as a requirement to bring workers. If they don’t return those workers safely back to their home countries, they lose the bond. That would solve most of our problems.
What is causing people to come into the country is the war on drugs. We’re sending money to gangsters south of the border who are causing violence to people and driving them to leave their home country. If you were to de-schedule marijuana, it would hit the drug cartels so hard. If you want the cartels to go, decriminalize drug use, legalize marijuana.
We’ve got to have a pathway to citizenship. You got to get people out of the shadows. Stop worrying about who is going to vote for you.
Jones: Way back during Ronald Reagan’s administration, they went to fix it and never got around to finishing it. That’s why we have an issue of several people living in this county who are American citizens in everything but the paperwork. These people have been living productive lives, have been loyal neighbors of ours. We’ve got to fix this issue. You can call it amnesty. It’s not an issue of politics; it’s an issue of doing what is logical and right.
We have sustainability and economic challenges we’ll face in the next 25 years. Immigration is one of the things that will be affected. We need to sit together and figure out the future of immigration. What we need to do is decide what our sustainable immigration horizon is. My suspicion is it’s going to limit how many people can enter. Our arms cannot be completely open any more; that’s what I suspect will come out of that discussion.
McKinley: What I would like to see is that we stop deporting the parents who are undocumented and keep those families together. You cannot have a healthy society where you’re ripping those families apart. I understand you don’t want to reward immigrants who came here 10 years ago or more and crossed the border illegally. But they have put down roots and have a family. Most of these people have lived law-abiding lives. I would be looking for comprehensive immigration that would keep those families together and allow a much larger number of the people who have been here a decade or longer to remain here. Not necessarily even to become citizens, just become documented, have a green card.
Newhouse: My goal is to continue to push as hard as I can to get my farmworker bill to President Donald Trump’s desk this year. We passed it out of the House. Several Senators see the need to modernize our labor force policies as urgently as I see it. I think we had some momentum in the Senate. Still, unfortunately, the pandemic has taken the oxygen out of the room, and it’s been a more significant challenge to get any kind of legislation passed.
I’m positive through the pandemic, there is a better understanding of the essential nature of the work people on the farms do for us and that having a legal workforce that is reliable and consistent is essential for us as a country. I hope that will help us pass the bill. If it doesn’t work out this year, we’ll push it next year.
Wright: I do want to limit immigration as much as possible. Still, at the same time, there are already people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who have already come out and identified themselves. We need to honor their status.
As far as new immigrants, we need to limit that, especially under COVID-19, and because we have so many unemployed people. I’m for restricting immigration and educating our population and pay them enough so they can do the jobs typically done by immigrants can be done ourselves in a clean and efficient matter.
I want H2-A and all those big immigration programs gone. I think each U.S. citizen should be able to sponsor 10 immigrants in their lifetime, including family, workers, or people seeking asylum. All residents should have the same rules. We shouldn’t have special rules for big businesses and billionaires. If agricultural producers only sponsored 10 people in their lifetime, they would be more thoughtful of who they brought in.