Campaign organizers for incumbent eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers were not happy Wednesday night following a debate in Walla Walla.
When the debate between incumbent Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic challenger Lisa Brown came to a close, many people in the audience at Walla Walla Community College started chanting Lisa Brown’s name.
But in a green room afterward, McMorris Rodgers was visibly upset.
“At the end of the last debate (in Spokane), the crowd was chanting ‘Cathy, Cathy, Cathy,’” said McMorris Rodgers. “So, I’m a very suspicious that this was a bit of a set up tonight.”
The Congresswoman said she was upset about how things turned out in the audience.
“I think it’s important that these debates and these forums are presented fairly to the people from eastern Washington,” she said.
The McMorris Rodgers campaign said they were given only one ticket to the event. They also said they were not immediately informed of a venue change, and they had a difficult time communicating with organizers at the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.
But organizers had a different take.
“People supported both candidates that were here tonight that are chamber members,” said Steve Owens, interim president of event sponsor Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce. “So, it wouldn’t do the Chamber any good, bring any benefit, provide any upside, if we were to pick one side or another,” he said.
Owens said no tickets were given directly to either campaign. Attendees registered for tickets online and got them on a first-come-first-served basis.
Lisa Brown’s campaign said they did not receive any tickets to the event.
Issues Discussed: Native Women, Tariffs, Agriculture, More
During the debate, which was also carried live nationally on CSPAN, the candidates touched on one hot-button issue in Indian Country: violence against women. Brown said she has had meetings with four Northwest tribes and is endorsed by the Spokane Tribe. “There’s a special, unique government-to-government relationship, and that needs to be respected,” Brown said.
Brown accused McMorris Rodgers of weakening protections for Native women. The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, has not been reauthorized in Congress. But McMorris Rodgers did vote in favor of extending it through the end of this year.
“I have led on making sure that it is reauthorized, it is extended, I have pushed my colleagues to get the extension that is in current law and it is a priority,” McMorris Rodgers said.
The two candidates also answered questions about women’s rights and the impact of the ‘metoo’ movement.
They also debated the impact of tariffs on agriculture and their ideas on bipartisanship in Congress.
McMorris Rodgers said her 14-year record in Congress shows that she can work across the aisle on many issues. “Sixty eight percent of the bills signed into law enjoyed bipartisan support, a 20-year high,” she said.
“Of the legislation that I have introduced this year, 10 bills that have passed the House, six signed into law, from hydropower to health care from veterans to military, agriculture to forestry, all of the legislation that I have introduced has enjoyed bipartisan support,” McMorris Rodgers said.
But Brown said bipartisanship is not a numbers game.
“It’s not the number of bills,” she said. “It’s whether or not it’s bills that really matter that are addressing the issues that matter today. And let me just repeat, no farm bill, no immigration bill, no bill to address the cost of prescription drugs or the healthcare cost crisis we’re experiencing.”
This is Brown’s first run for a seat in the U.S. House. She previously served in the Washington state House and as majority leader of the state Senate.
McMorris Rodgers is running for an eighth term in Congress.
It’s one of three congressional races in Washington -- in the 3rd, 5th and 8th districts -- that are closely watched nationally this year as possible Democratic pick ups that could help determine which party controls the U.S. House.
Brown has raised more money than any previous Democrat running in the eastern Washington district that includes Spokane, the state’s second-largest city, and large swaths of agricultural areas that have traditionally favored Republicans.
The district was last represented by a Democrat in 1994, when Republican George Nethercutt upset Tom Foley, making Foley the first sitting Speaker of the U.S. House to lose reelection since 1862.