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Newhouse faces wide field in District 4 congressional race as Aug. 2 primary looms

UPDATED: Wed., June 8, 2022

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, questions officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs at a House VA subcommittee hearing at the Capitol.  (Orion Donovan-Smith/The Spokesman-Review)
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, questions officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs at a House VA subcommittee hearing at the Capitol. (Orion Donovan-Smith/The Spokesman-Review)
By Kate Smith Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA — The 2022 election cycle is the first to test new political boundaries across the state, including in Central Washington’s Congressional District 4, where eight candidates are vying for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The newly redrawn district stretches vertically through the center of the state, capturing all of Okanogan, Douglas, Grant, Yakima, Benton and Klickitat counties and picking up precincts in Adams and Franklin counties.

The candidates who will appear on the Aug. 2 primary ballot represent communities throughout the Yakima Valley and Central Washington.

Incumbent Dan Newhouse, 66, is a Republican from Sunnyside. He operates an 880-acre farm in the Yakima Valley and previously served as the director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Also a former member of the state House, Newhouse said his old legislative district included part of Klickitat County, which is a new addition to the congressional district.

“I’m very familiar with the challenges that people face, the interests and concerns they have, in the Columbia Gorge and throughout Klickitat County, and I’m excited to be able to re-engage with those folks,” Newhouse said.

He’s facing six Republican challengers and one Democrat, including some who have brought up his vote in support of Trump’s impeachment following on charges he incited an insurrection in the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021. He was one of 10 Republicans to vote in support in 2021.

While Newhouse was a staunch supporter of Trump — he was the Washington state vice chair of his reelection campaign — he said his conscience and his religious beliefs led him to cast the vote to impeach. He voted against Trump’s 2020 impeachment.

Newhouse has worked on legislation dealing with agriculture and immigration, and is the chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, which advocates for rural priorities, resources and energy security. He’s been active in supporting veterans at home in the district.

Newhouse had five opponents in the 2020 primary, including two Republicans, and handily beat Democrat Douglas McKinley in the 2020 general with 66% of the vote. The top two candidates in the primary, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election.

The challengers

Among the other candidates are Benancio “Benny” Garcia, 50, a Republican who was born and raised in Sunnyside.

Garcia said he entered the race in part to help solve gang violence and drug use in the community, but he’s also interested in issues related to agriculture. He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a community development and loan specialist.

“I really care about how our politics is directly affecting our way of life, and I want to make sure our small businesses and our farmers or ranchers and our private citizens are really getting the best benefit in representation within the district,” Garcia said.

He is a U.S. Army and National Guard veteran and is the only Latino candidate in the race.

Republican Jerrod Sessler, 52, grew up in the Tri-Cities and Seattle but now lives in Prosser. The U.S. Navy veteran, former NASCAR driver and entrepreneur said he started preparing for a congressional campaign after the 2012 election.

“I’ve been traveling to Washington, D.C., for many years for business, encouraging and driving legislation for small businesses and families,” Sessler said. “I was obviously well into the swing of learning how the system works and meeting with congressmen and senators.”

Sessler said he was in D.C. for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, though he said he doesn’t believe it was an insurrection. He said he listened to Trump speak in the morning at the Ellipse, north of the National Mall, and then walked to the west side of the Capitol but didn’t enter the building. Sessler said Newhouse’s impeachment vote was the catalyst to submit his name in this election.

Republicans Jacek Kobiesa and Brad Klippert are from the Tri-Cities.

Kobiesa, 57, is a mechanical engineer from Pasco. He was born in Holland but moved to Pasco from California in 1998.

He said he entered the race because he felt his statements were dismissed by other local Republicans.

“I have three children right now, and I’m doing this more to secure a good future than anything else,” Kobiesa said. “And it’s not just their future, it is other people’s futures, as well.”

Klippert, 64, is a Benton County Sheriff’s deputy and resides in Kennewick. He was born and raised in Sunnyside.

“I’ve lived in this district all my life except for when I served in the military or when I went to Tacoma to get my master’s degree and worked for Pierce County,” Klippert said.

Klippert, who has represented District 8 in the state House since 2008, said he thought about running for Congress in past years, but knew it was time after Newhouse’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.

“That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

From Yakima and surrounding municipalities are Doug White, the lone Democrat in the race, and Republican Corey Gibson.

White, 60, lives in Yakima but has traveled extensively during his career as a global project manager. He said he was in Hong Kong during demonstrations and occupation in 2020. He was back in the U.S. by Jan. 6, 2021, when he learned about the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“I said ‘I can take no more,’ so I started looking around at how to apply best the skills that I have accumulated over my career,” White said.

He said he is focused on the issues of water, immigration, infrastructure and climate change, which he grew up discussing with his grandfather.

Gibson, 44, lives in Selah and was raised in the apple industry. He is the owner of a marketing company and initially started thinking about running for office when his parents were forced to retire early and couldn’t afford their needed medications.

“I started getting very interested in figuring out how I was going to be able to play a role in helping to fight back and make some of the changes that needed to happen,” Gibson said.

He said he also has his sights set on setting term limits for Congress and passing immigration reform.

Loren Culp, a former police chief from Republic in Ferry County, is running a Republican from Moses Lake. He’s a former Washington gubernatorial candidate.

His campaign did not respond to requests for an interview. He announced his campaign after Newhouse voted to impeach Trump, and he has Trump’s endorsement.

Fundraising

Newhouse had a sizable lead in fundraising for the first quarter of 2022. Through the end of March, he had raised $1.2 million, according to records from the Federal Election Commission. Sessler had the next highest amount with $456,385 raised, followed by White with $230,995 and Culp with $191,319.

Gibson had raised $36,050 through the end of March, and Klippert had raised $23,219.

According to the FEC, Garcia had not reported any funds for the first quarter and Kobiesa did not have his campaign registered.

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