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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Congressional candidates Brown, Bonneau talk health care, gun control at Pullman town hall

5th District congressional candidates Lisa Brown and Jered Bonneau discussed their political platforms at a public forum in Pullman Thursday. (Rebecca White / SR)
By Rebecca White The Spokesman-Review

Two of the three congressional candidates vying to represent Washington’s 5th Legislative District, Democrat Lisa Brown and Republican Jered Bonneau, disagreed on health care and gun control, but found common ground on immigration reform Thursday in a Pullman public forum.

In her opening statement, Brown reiterated her commitment to education and health care, citing her experience as chancellor of Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane and her involvement and work with the late Elson S. Floyd to start WSU Spokane’s new medical school. She added that if elected, she would try to gain a spot on the House agriculture committee to make sure the district’s interests would be represented.

During his opening statement, Bonneau promised to donate $30,000 a year to the homeless if elected. He added that he would not deduct the money from his taxes and would release his tax returns to prove it. He said he was homeless for a time and wanted to provide support for others.

“Like so many of our citizens,” he said, “that struggle was mine. So when I say I am of the people, by the people and for the people, just know that I truly am.”

Both candidates fielded several questions on health care. Bonneau stuck to his stance that the government should stay out of health care, and the free market should dictate prices.

Brown said she supports affordable, public health care that covers pre-existing conditions. She said she hopes to work to reduce pharmaceutical prices and make health care more affordable.

Brown also addressed women’s rights in the #MeToo era. She mentioned that incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which prohibits pay discrimination based on gender, and discussed her own experience 25 years ago as a mother in the state legislature, when she brought her son to work and he was not allowed on the floor.

On the topic of gun control, Brown said she supports what she calls sensible gun control legislation, which includes No Fly, No Buy policies that would prohibit suspected terrorists on the no-fly list from purchasing firearms, as well as restrictions on those who are a domestic violence risk from buying guns.

“We have been presented with a false choice,” she said. “I believe that we can reduce gun violence and improve safety without threatening our constitutional rights.”

Bonneau said teachers should be armed and more resources should be invested in mental health care.

Both Brown and Bonneau disagreed with President Donald Trump’s stance on immigration. Brown said she supported the DREAM act, a bill that would give many young immigrants a pathway to citizenship. She also said she was against a border wall.

“I see immigrant and refugee communities as enriching both the cultural and economic fabric our county,” she said.

Bonneau said he had many friends he’d worked with over the years who were immigrants. The amount of time it took them to attain citizenship is ridiculous, he said. He said law-abiding immigrants should have opportunities to become citizens.

McMorris Rodgers did not attend the public forum, but was at a School Safety Youth Forum in Spokane at the same time.

Her campaign spokeswoman Ashley Stubbs said the organization hosting the Pullman forum, Fuse, used Western Washington money to push their values on the district through misleading questions.

Jim Dawson, director of Spokane’s Fuse office, said he was disappointed McMorris Rodgers did not attend events like the forum, where the questions were unscripted and asked by the audience. She did, however, answer audience questions at the Spokane event. He said there would another debate featuring Brown and Bonneau in Walla Walla, but McMorris Rodgers has not indicated she would attend.