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Lisa Brown reflects on Congressional campaign, says she won’t run for Spokane mayor

November 11, 2018

Lisa Brown says she may not be through with politics, but don’t expect her to enter the scrum next year to run Spokane City Hall.

“I don’t have any plans to run for office right now. I’m going to take some time and evaluate some of the possibilities,” Brown said last week, a few days removed from her concession to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in a Congressional race she lost by 10 points.

Brown said she saw many positives in the campaign, not the least of which was a clear victory over her Republican opponent within Spokane city limits. After Thursday’s vote count, Brown held a nearly 17-point lead over McMorris Rodgers among Spokane voters, one of the district’s few blue centers.

“For me personally, that’s really gratifying having lived here since the early 1980s,” Brown said.

But she was clearly defeated in the suburbs and rural areas of Eastern Washington, and lost all counties to the congresswoman.

Despite the strong performance in the City of Spokane, Brown said she’s endorsed Ben Stuckart in next year’s contest for Spokane’s mayor. The council president dropped his own bid for the Congress seat in June 2017, a few months before Brown announced her candidacy and cleared out the Democratic field.

Stuckart said this week he didn’t regret his own decision to drop out of the race, though he shared some of the Democratic surprise at the margin of victory for Republicans not only in the Congressional race, but also for the state 6th Legislative District.

“I thought it would be a lot closer than the end result,” Stuckart said. “I was pretty stunned. The 6th surprised me, too. Those candidates worked their butts off.”

Brown said the turnout numbers clearly showed that the bases of both parties were energized to vote. That bodes well for Democrats in the future, she said.

“I think the story here is that Republicans turned out in record numbers, and Democrats turned out in record numbers,” she said. “That’s very hopeful for the future for Democrats, particularly because our electorate is younger and now activated.”

One of those energized by Brown’s campaign was Dave Lee, a 26-year-old medical student who volunteered for the campaign for a little less than a year. Lee moved to Chicago to attend medical school in June, but he said before he left there was evidence younger voters were lining up behind Brown.

“On the ground, it felt different, especially within my own friend group and my age range. People just felt more galvanized and energized,” Lee said.

That didn’t translate into a political victory, Lee said, but he believed the relationships built between young voters during the campaign would translate into future success for the party.

Brown pushed back on claims from some observers that her campaign did not go after McMorris Rodgers’ record strongly enough, saying she’d been critical of the congresswoman’s votes on health care and other social welfare programs “from day one.”

“There were really negative TV ads and mailers that started in June, and there were six months of those,” Brown said. “I think they successfully distracted people from Cathy’s record. I was certainly talking about it.”

It might make sense to second-guess campaign strategy now, Brown said. But what she’ll look back on are the young people who came forward to work on her campaign, some of them not even old enough to vote yet, like a 16-year-old in Walla Walla. Brown said their passion reminded her of her own desire to get into politics following the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s.

“I think we ran a very active, very vigorous campaign,” Brown said. “I think we ran on the right issues, health care and the independence of our elected officials. I think those messages will continue to resonate.”

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