As a candidate to represent Washington’s 4th Congressional District, I wanted to ask Doug White about his candidacy and why he thought we was the best person to represent Central Washington. I was finally able to catch up with him for an interview on April 4th. This is an excerpt of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
As a matter of policy, Tumbleweird does not endorse political candidates. This interview is not intended to be an endorsement, but to provide our readers an opportunity to hear directly from the candidate. We would be happy to have a similar conversation with any of his campaign opponents to discuss why they should be our representative to Congress.
Ted Miller: If you have a voter's attention for just a few minutes, what do you talk about?
Doug White: In central Washington, we are hard workers. We have a love of the earth, a love of the ground, and we used to have big visions and take on great projects — from the dams, to electrifying them, and providing carbon-free energy to our homes. We built the reservoirs in the Cascades in order to water our crops. We became the third largest crop exporting state in the nation, with crops that are known around the world like apples and hops. We even built Hanford. So, we are incredible people, but somewhere along the way we stopped working together for these grand plans and we started finding it easier to be oppositional and obstructionist. We see that in our current and our past representatives. They're far more interested in taking sides, alienating people, and becoming obstructionists to what our future could look like. But I know that when we come together, we can accomplish great things. We could build a future that we know we deserve. Infrastructure, water, immigration, climate change, healthcare, housing… all these things are within our ability to accomplish. All we have to do is be willing to come together and do the hard work. And we know how to do that.
Ted: I think most people will say, “Yeah, that's a great idea,” and then they go off into their partisan corners and we have more obstructionism. How would you, as our representative, be able to bring people together for the common good?
Doug: It's already happening. You can't keep the people in central Washington down. Although there is a lack of leadership to take expansive projects that impact everybody in the district to the federal level, I see the spirit of working together as I travel up and down the district. You go all the way up to Okanogan and the people in the Methow Valley came together and created a plan to benefit everyone, putting themselves in the lead [for] when the infrastructure bill or grants for climate change become available.
And I'll take you all the way down to Klickitat, down to White Salmon, where they're doing some phenomenal things with housing vacancy. Even if you have a good job, you could still be homeless. They put a moratorium on flipping low-income housing to develop high income housing to keep some people from being thrown out of their homes.
And here in my hometown of Yakima, they have what they call an interagency council, which is the police department, sheriff’s department, mental health — there's probably about 15 or 20 different departments that come together with a list of names of people who are just really close to stepping off on the wrong track. They actually look at people out there that are vulnerable for a lot of reasons. They look out for them.
These are the great things that we do in our district because we don't have leadership at the federal level that allows us to do the big projects. I want to connect all these dots, take all this energy looking forward.
Ted: So, your role as our representative would be to take these ideas and provide the tools and the mechanisms to act on them through federal legislation; is that what you're talking about?
Doug: Yeah. The role of the representative is to take the voice of the people, their ideas, and make the best possible argument to Congress as to what we need. That is my job, to bring it home. You know, government is not here to run people's lives or to take over anything. Government is here to help pave the way so people can do what they do best and to provide a safety net when needed.
Ted: As a fourth-generation farmer, you know immigration and farm labor is essential to our economy and certainly to our agriculture business. A large part of that labor force is immigrant labor, some of whom are undocumented. How can we provide the labor force that our agricultural industry needs within the limitations of our current immigration policy? What can Congress do? Do you believe that there should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants?
Doug: I look at it a little bit differently. We are a nation mostly, not entirely but mostly, of immigrants. That is how we have continued to grow. So, I'm not really certain why it is that we look at immigration from a very specific group of people and see it more as an attack on our country rather than just who we are as a people. All we have to do is look at our thriving Latino communities to see the value that they have contributed to our district. We need to start looking at this as part of our life. This is who we are as a nation.
I was door-knocking last weekend, and a few stories stand out in my mind. One of them was an elderly gentleman who's a pastor at his church. He was undocumented and would qualify for citizenship. He's been here all his life, he's raised a family, but he can't afford to pay for citizenship. That took me by surprise.
There was another I met, a dreamer, a young man who had basically just given up. You know, this is the only place he's ever known. I asked him if citizenship something he wants to pursue, but he just didn't know what to do. He was willing to go through the rest of his life never really being allowed to be an American. Made me so sad.
And then, somebody I stopped to talk to: thirty-five years old, one of those heating and air conditioning guys. He told me about his parents, who are undocumented. They had to pay a lawyer to apply for citizenship, after having been here all their lives paying taxes, holding down good jobs, and raising a family of six. The kids all have good jobs and are contributing members to society. And they had to get a lawyer, but the lawyer died during the process. So, they gave the lawyer all this money, and now the documents are gone. These people, who should never have had to go see a lawyer, after spending probably fifty years in this country, now they're stuck and they don't know what to do because, like the first gentleman, they don't have the money to do it again.
Ted: So, is there a role Congress plays with that, or is this an administration problem?
Doug: Well, this is about amnesty for the dreamers and the people who've been here a long time. This is also about sorting out the current immigration problem they have right now. I think when you said that we needed migrants for farm labor, we’re specifically talking about the H-2A visa process, which probably isn't the only thing, but that was an example that affects this district and… I don't care what anybody says, we do not have a pathway to citizenship right now, and [current member of congress] Newhouse said he wrote a documented pathway to citizenship in his Farm Workforce Modernization Act. But… it is indentured servitude. It is the most hateful spiteful thing you could have ever done. It's absolutely horrific, and he passed that off as a pathway to citizenship. It is not. There is no pathway to citizenship for any of these people right now. That needs to be done.
Ted: Congress has a role to represent us to the federal government. What role does a congressional representative have in state politics and in state government?
Doug: The job of the representative is to take the voice of the people from their districts to Congress, to walk the halls, to pass the legislation in order to be able to bring the projects back, to create a better environment for us to succeed in. So, in that sense, we're always working with people and local politics. You can't separate the two. But we're seeing a failing of Dan Newhouse right now on so many levels. He has absolutely no vision for the future, never has. The infrastructure bill would have been a godsend. We haven't invested in our infrastructure in over half a century. We're still trying to be the top exporting state in the nation and we're working with infrastructure that is fifty, seventy, one hundred years old in some cases. Here in Yakima, some of our canals were built in 1906 and they are the backbone of our agricultural industry. Newhouse didn’t support the infrastructure bill, he didn't work with the local governments to lobby for the money, and as a consequence we've got zero rural broadband dollars for the most rural district in the state. We are not getting any climate change money because he didn't vote for it.
Ted: What can Congress do to reduce the epidemic of gun violence while still respecting the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Washington State?
Doug: I'm glad you mentioned the Second Amendment because you know I have great respect for the Constitution. I will be taking an oath next January and I will mean every word of it.
I look to education, I really do. I think education is the slow path, it's the one that frustrates a lot of people because it doesn't seem to have enough teeth in order to get the immediate effect that people want, but you know I grew up in a day when if you had a gun, you knew how to use it. You were taught how to use it, you were taught respect, and I was taught at a very young age from my father, my grandfather, and my uncles. We do not have that level of education, instilling respect for firearms. So, I think we need to look at some of the successes that we have had with education in the past, such as reducing smoking, and what we've done with everything from losing firefighters and pollution and various other things. Education on these have been effective in the past. They're slow, but they work and I think that is the place that we need to start. Education.
Ted: So, what you mean is more like a campaign of information as opposed to mandated education requirements for gun ownership or gun use. You’re not talking about mandating a gun safety course, for example, prior to allowing the purchase of a weapon or something like that?
Doug: I think that is it, yeah. You know, before I drive a car, I have to get a license. I mean, we're required to do so many things like that. It's the right thing to do — at least have a lot of understanding about how to operate tools that that we buy and use. So, I do believe that guns should come with some kind of a training requirement.
Ted: It seems to me that over the last number of decades, less and less legislation is coming out of the legislative branch and interpretation of what should or should not be legislated is coming from the Supreme Court. Some people call that legislating from the bench. But it seems to me as though Congress has abdicated some of their authority and responsibility in providing legislation on these things and deferring to the Supreme Court to make an interpretation on something, which in effect creates law. How do you feel about that? Do you think the balance between our three branches of government is adequate, or is Congress sitting some of these important issues out when they should be actively engaged?
Doug: Yeah. I am really disappointed in our Congress, but I think that was one of the first things that we touched on. We no longer have a Congress that is willing to work together. I mean, it is so partisan right now that most votes are exactly down party lines. Basically, everything is a stalemate. I find it very difficult to accept that so much of what we're seeing right now is adjudicated because I do not believe that's what the Supreme Court was ever intended to be. It was to tell us whether we'd overstepped the line. It wasn't to create the laws on a day-to-day basis. But we've got Congress in gridlock, so what can we do?
Ted: As a freshman member of congress, would you have any ability to start trying to change this hyper-partisanship in Congress?
Doug: Yeah, I get asked this question quite a bit, and my platform is one that could easily be accepted by many people. A lot of the things on my platform are beneficial to the people of central Washington because those are the people I represent. It's also good for everybody in Eastern Washington, and it's also good for people in Oregon and Idaho. We already know that Republicans and Democrats in this particular area for some of the issues that are on my platform are very willing to work towards a common goal. So, find some common ground on something. And have hope for the future.
Ted: A lot of the hot button issues in our country are put in the framework of states’ rights versus the federal government, and we see that particularly in the Republican controlled states where they are claiming states’ rights for things like voting laws, abortion, and education, and they use the concept of states’ rights provided for in the constitution as a way to make laws that are undoing decades of precedent. How do you feel about this balance between states’ rights to legislate things within a state, and the role of the federal government in upholding the Constitution of the United States? Is there some sort of philosophy or way that you think about those things?
Doug: Let's go back to the conversation that we just had about the role of the Supreme Court. I believe in states’ rights; I really do. I think it’s important to have a certain level of autonomy. And that is why we have the court system right up to the Supreme Court, to determine whether or not whatever a state has decided actually holds up to the test of constitutionality.
Now you talked about the really big topics — voting rights and abortion and other things. You know, when it comes voting rights, I would like to see much more progress from Congress. My personal opinion is these rollbacks in voter rights in many of these states is unacceptable and are indefensible, they really are. And that's trouble because that is the cornerstone of our democracy. It’s scary. That's a slippery slope.
Ted: One final thing. It would seem that to appeal to the electorate you have to appeal to the moderate republican, the libertarians, and the non-voters. How is your campaign going to engage that set of voters?
Doug: I think the only way that I'm going to be able to sway these people is for them to be able to not only hear me, but to be able to ask me questions and get the responses back. As the representative of the people here, that is the job that I've applied for. I don't think it's a matter of trying to persuade people to vote for me, I think it's just a matter of people needing to be able to talk to me. I'm old school politics and my platform is all about the future, it’s all about our pocketbook, it's all about the kids, it's all about the education, it's all about the economy, and it's all about the things that have been neglected for over half a century. It's about coming together in order to be able to accomplish these things that we deserve, keeping our tax dollars here. Somebody fighting for us. That's what this is about. I don't care what side of the aisle you're on.
Ted: Alright, well, thanks so much for your time. Are there any final words? Anything you want to say that I haven't asked about or that we haven't talked about?
Doug: I just I want to reiterate the fact that in Central Washington we do things so well here. The people are kind with good hearts. We just need a leader that spends more time bringing us together to accomplish things rather than always taking a side in opposition to somebody else. You never solve a problem by being an obstacle. The solutions are there, we just need somebody that can think through them.
Post interview note: With the right to abortion in the news, I reached out to Doug for a comment. Here is my question and his response.
Ted: As a follow up to our interview, do you have any comment on the draft SCOTUS decision from Justice Alito indicating an intent to overturn Roe v. Wade?
Doug: This is a significant topic with ramifications we cannot yet fully understand. I believe that women, like all people, have autonomy over their bodies. It is imperative that we protect individual rights and freedoms. Government must be restricted from unwarranted invasion into our privacy, which absolutely includes managing our own bodies.
Tumbleweird would be happy to interview other candidates for Washington’s 4th Congressional District. Campaign representatives may reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.