Pasco Citizens Questioned Candidates For The 4th Congressional District

Evento "Poder en Comunidad" en Pasco, WA
Pasco residents gathered at the Tierra Vida Community Center to hear from the candidates for the 4th Congressional District. Benancio Garcia (R), Jacek Kobiesa (R) and Doug White (D) answered questions from the community. Credit: Johanna Bejarano.


The recent “Power in Community” event in Pasco gave residents the chance to ask questions of the candidates for the 4th Congressional District.

The challengers face the current incumbent, Republican Representative Dan Newhouse, in the upcoming August 2nd elections.

Newhouse faces a fierce race to keep his seat after voting to impeach former President Trump over the actions of January 6th. 

At least 60 people attended the candidate forum. The panel was organized by Mitzli Radio Online and the podcast Klandestino Kors, two community media in Pasco.

Doug White is the only Democrat in the race. Republican candidates include Loren Culp, Benancio Garcia, Corey Gibson, Brad Klippert, Jerrod Sessler, and Jacek Kobiesa.

Kobiesa is listed as a Republican on VoteWA Voter Portal but identifies himself as an independent on his website.

According to Ulises Navarro, one of the panel organizers and Mitzli codirector, all candidates were invited by email, but only White, Kobiesa and Garcia showed up at the bilingual event. Sessler and Gibson also confirmed their participation but did not attend.

Issues that came up from residents’ questions involved abortion rights, gun control, immigration, homelessness and dam removal.

The Congressional District 4th includes Benton, Klickitat, Yakima, Grant, Douglas and Okanogan Counties in Central Washington.

Here are the Pasco resident’s questions and answers from candidates’ Kobiesa, Garcia and White.

Kobiesa (K): “I am against breaching the Snake River dams. The Snake River dams besides providing us with constant flow of electricity and clean energy, also helping us with irrigation. If the Snake River dams, or any other dams will be removed, then we can’t produce enough food for everybody not just in United States but also selling food to other countries as well. And I quite frankly don’t understand the notion of protecting the environment by removing the dams. I don’t see a relationship between protecting the environment and removing the dams”.

Garcia (G): “I’m not for breaching the dams either. That is the lifeblood of our 4th Congressional District. We are a desert and without that water and those dams, we would not be able to have all our agriculture. almost from the Seattle easiness. We would have a huge unemployment issue and the world would go hungry, and we’d have more wildfires. Definitely, if there are other EPA concerns, or NEPA SEPA concerns, we have certainly addressed many of them, because I’ve worked in community development and believe me, there’s a lot that has already been protected.”

White (W): “I’d like to start with sovereignty in the tribal lands. There is a great difficulty with the sovereignty and the tribal lands and how they relate to the federal government right now. And those need to be clear. One of the things that we see that is most troubling is a lack of understanding about what the relationship is and what the responsibilities are, is in the missing and murdered indigenous people that has been going on for too long. And this is because of the fact that clear rights on sovereignty have not been sorted out.”

With regard to the dams, I’ve been fairly clear on this. The dams are not going to come down in my lifetime. There have been arguments going on for too long. As a representative, I’m going to do what I can and what I can is to improve the economy by building up our carbon-free energy production or energy storage.”

K: “Clean energy already exists in the form of dams. I’m a big proponent of putting the United States back into our nuclear power production. We can build what’s called modular reactors and they can be built in whatever you know and move around the United States. We don’t have to build those big, huge nuclear power plants and, at the same time, that would give us time to develop technology for the future which is the helium three and tritium and deuterium reactors”.

G: “I do like the idea that we’re trying to move forward toward clean energy. So, I’m not against it. But I do want to make sure that fossil fuel is still strong because we’re not enabled to make a transition at this point. But we do need to move towards the future. We do have the dams, we also have nuclear energy and nuclear it’s very safe. I would have nuclear. We need to be able to evolve but we have to give time for this to happen.”

W: “Central Washington generates 65% of the state’s electrical power right now. In less than 10 years it will be 100% We will be free of fossil fuels or dependence on; we will be the first state in the nation to be truly energy independent and with reliable, inexpensive, clean energy. Our economy can do anything. Everybody will prosper.”

K: “Listen too, I speak with an accent. I’ve immigrated to this country myself. When I came here in 86, I spent three years getting my wife here. It’s a mind-boggling bureaucracy. I understand exactly what it means to immigrate and how to keep families together. When DACA was created that was just a temporary composure. It’s not a solution to a problem. I get to Congress, I’m going to try to get everybody first to make them legalize, get them to work permits. People have to be, families, they have to be together.”

G: What I want to be able to do is to see what Ronald Reagan had done in 1986, as far as amnesty. And for those that have broken the law, you won’t become a citizen but those that the process takes five years to determine citizenship, and then we had those with the ITN card that had been working here for years, is to start making from their tax return payments for citizenship during those 5 years period. And this also includes the DACA students”.

W: “This is a very complex topic. Short answer, DACA and DAPA Immediately Congress acts are done. Anybody who lives here, spent their life here, contributes here, is an American here. H2A visa, skilled workers pathway to citizenship. The trouble at the border shows us that our immigration rules are faulty and until we get them cleared up, we need better trained and more people at the border so that we can have a more humane process.”

K: “It’s a very difficult subject to talk about. I don’t believe that guns kill people, people kill people. What happened in Uvalde, for example, was a failure of a police establishment to enter the classroom and end the situation. It’s very difficult for me to explain to anybody. If you look at for example, what happened in Oklahoma City, when a fertilizer vehicle was used as a bomb to kill 194 People. At the same time, you know, with airplanes flying into a World Trade Center killing over 3,000 people. If you look at the latest ruling from a Supreme Court, they said that the Second Amendment stands as it is.”

G: “I am not going to do anything about gun reform. The gun is not the problem. But it will say that it is school leadership that also needs to hold the mantle when they need to see higher safety standards. John Cerna, from Wapato, allows teachers to carry weapons if properly trained. You can also include police SROs in the budget. Also, what happened in Uvalde, Texas, was weak police leadership and not preventing the shooter from entering the school grounds and I can say that as a combat veteran. I have family there, my family is from Uvalde, and they have photos that they sent me of the police fighting off the families, instead of keeping that shooter from getting into the school. Shame on that police chief.”

W: “I grew up in Central Washington and I grew up with guns.  And growing up I was taught respect for rifles, guns. There is a rule in our house that is the one bullet rule. If you’re holding the gun, you can have one bullet in the chamber. If you’re not holding the gun, the bullet is out of the chamber for safety reasons. Because if you are truly interested in sport and hunting, you only need one bullet. These people aren’t interested in hunting or sports, so we should question their right to own things that can cause mass destruction, especially high-capacity magazines. You need to be responsible if you’re owning a rifle and you should at least be able to prove that you are responsible and accountable before you’re given access to a weapon of mass destruction. I cannot find a justification for having a high-capacity magazine.”

K: “Beautifully, we are located in Tri-city cities. When parents are working, children are supposed to be in school to begin with. But then, I find very interesting that there is an educational system struggling. And for example, at some point in time, I offered to teach mathematics to children, to people who don’t understand mathematics and I extended that offer to parents. There are a bunch of people like me, who are willing to spend time with these children and teach them something which will be useful for them in the future. But also, the same parents and the same children need to participate in these programs. When I extended that offer, through a Christ-seeking school, I can only tell you this: zero parents expressed interest in that offer. And we have added that. And I can assure you that if I teach your child mathematics enough or physics or chemistry, they will understand it. I pride myself on that. As an engineer to help other people with understanding.”

G: “I can tell you what happened during COVID that we really had a drop in education and a struggle for each of our kids. But one thing that has happened though, is that it showed that we can go ahead and go forward online. And what I suggest is: if parents want to teach their kids, they get paid to do so. We can strengthen the bond between the parent and their child. And you can go ahead and use online courses to help you get through and educate your child too. We need to have other challenges to give our kids the best that they deserve. And that’ll keep families together. If mom and dad were able to go ahead and teach their child and get paid for it. Last year, the federal government and state combinations of Washington State, spent $1,825 per student. If you’re a parent of three that’s going to make a huge difference in your household income and a huge impact on how you’re raising your kids.”

W: “Lack of access to childcare, lack of access to health care, suppression of wages. I think some of the biggest threats we have to our current workforce and as growing as a nation. As I mentioned, my focus is on building the economy. By building the economy, we can lift everybody’s wages and give them access. There are too many jobs we have, including healthcare workers, where people cannot afford to take the jobs. We should never be in a position where somebody can’t take a job because they can’t afford to do it.”

K: “We have to look at the homeless people who have mental problems. Many of them are drug addicts and alcoholics. They simply don’t see, in many cases, any future for them. In many cases, the funds the government whether it’s a state or local have in order to deal with this kind of issue are basically non-existing. Also, we have to take a look at the possibility of curing these people with different methods. There has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that, for example, hallucinogenic mushrooms have a very good response in alcoholics. Right now, there is a proposal with the state to legalize and once this is approved, it will become a viable way of treating drug addicts and alcoholics and mentally.”

G: “I can tell you as a combat veteran that I know, that I’ve had surgeries of major reconstruction, and I served with others where pain was a certain issue for them all the time. Physical and mental. I am in agreement that if we need to use mushrooms, I am for that, and if that person goes or even legalized marijuana on that aspect for medical. Also, I was at the Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle and I was appalled by the amount of tents, drug addiction and homeless in Pioneer Square. This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. I find it a pulse that our tax dollars federal state and local are used to try to find treatments and their own success. I want to audit the medical facilities to see a 30% success rate for those homeless and addicted folks. It is your tax dollars; it is state and federal funds and it is failing you and I.”

W: “I travel up and down the district often. I visited all the communities, and the number one request is assistance with mental health. It touches all aspects of our life. I think the issue about having a simple answer to that is too complex, because it’s part of its pipeline, part of it is making it worthwhile for people to go into the industry and it’s also being able to keep people in Central Washington. We’re a rural district and it is very hard to keep healthcare workers here. But if there is a need, there is a solution.

And I’d like to talk about the homeless because this was a little surprising to me. I didn’t expect to see homeless being such a significant problem in some of our smaller communities. And most of our smaller communities, at least in the south half of the districts, have a larger homeless problem than the bigger cities do proportionally. The encouraging thing is that people are passionate about their communities and they’re sharing with me possible solutions. So, we do not have and answer yet, but I believe it’s out there. They we just need people that are willing to be able to work hard and be passionate enough to solve this problem.”

K: “This is a very sensitive subject. I have three children and I am against abortion. I am a Catholic, probably like most of you, but at the same time, I do believe that whatever is happening right now with abortion, pro-abortion, pro-life is really an atrocity. Who is the government to tell you that you can have an abortion? Who is the government to tell you that you don’t have the right to have abortion? I can tell you this; I’ve seen women from Ireland, Spain, Poland and Italy traveling to different countries to get abortion. And some of those women were mutilated, and some of them died. They were seen by a guy that we know as Jackknife barbers. We need to teach children respect. The first thing is don’t get pregnant. We have kids and parents, especially parents, that’s your job. It is not the school job, it’s not someone else job, it is you as a parent to educate the children about pregnancy, how to avoid it and what to do about in case something it happens.”

G: I’m pro-life. I will say the only exception mother’s life, or the child is in danger. Then I say I wish for the best outcome. I am about education. Here is a list of birth control options: birth control implant, IUD, birth control shot, birth control vaginal ring, birth control patch, birth control pill, condom, internal condom, diaphragm, birth control sponge, spermicide in gel, cervical cap and vasectomy. Now, the horrible decision of Roe vs. Wade doesn’t affect the state anyway. In 1973 has murdered over 60 million babies. That is a genocide. And you can laugh it up, Doug, but you know what, I cherish all life, because my grandkids could be here and I will not select anyone to be aborted. And we have a governor in Virginia, that after the baby was born, they would go ahead and allow the baby to die.”

W: “I don’t think anybody’s pro-abortion and I don’t think this discussion is really about abortion. It is about to suppress a basic right we have in this country, our individual freedom and our autonomy in our own bodies. And it is an incredible insult that people have twisted this argument against half of the people of this country suggesting that they are not intelligent enough or capable enough to be able to make the same decisions that men are.”

K: “In the United States, I don’t like the way how people are taught to begin with. Everybody’s striving for college, everybody wants to go to high school. But how about having a basic education? and then, on top of that, we will basically teach somebody skills. If someone wants to go to college, they will go to high school, but if they don’t, they can become a framer, a plumber, an electrician, a truck driver and all those good paid jobs. For some reason, the whole education system is failing everybody because they’re stopping people like ‘Oh, in order to succeed, you have to go to college’. And that is not true. My take on that is to go to classic education, teach somebody a skill and the child or the teenager is equipped with the proper information. Then they will be capable of, may have certain capacities to take a good and educated decision.”

G: “I liked the idea about not just your regular education at school. YVTech in Sunnyside really turned out a lot of good students, because not everybody wants to go to a four-year school. Maybe they want to be a carpenter, they want to do wiring, they want to go ahead and be a welder. I know this one kid who made $5,000 in one weekend after going through YVTech in Sunnyside and he was still going to school, but his welding skills are very high. No one’s gonna pay you $5,000 unless you’ve got good welding skills. We need to keep our kids very interested. I would love to see computer technology, and YVTechs in every school district, so our kids can be the best at what they can be. I’ve worked in the school district myself over the years before I moved on to work in government. The fact is, we need to keep our kids educated and interested. And we’ve got to give quality education. Sometimes, OSP ties the teachers’ hands in being able to be creative in the schoolroom. I want to be able to allow that teacher, who’s learned classroom management and their curriculum, to go ahead and teach to the best level they can to each individual student. We may be in the United States like you are, competing globally against every other person for that one job now.”

W: “I don’t think the United States respects our kids and the important role that they play in the future of this country. We had a $300 tax credit during Covid lifted 3 million kids out of poverty and we stopped it. Our education system is funded to about 85% of what it should be and there are actually laws in place preventing us from funding at 100%. Something needs to be done. We cannot expect our kids to stay on a good path, a healthy path if we deliberately sabotage.”

K: “You can’t. The only thing that I can say is this job only comes with a two-year term. If you don’t like what you see in two years, get someone else out. That’s how simply it is”.

G: “There’s a lot of challenges and those challenges are our finances. For example, spending $40 billion in Ukraine with your taxpaying dollars instead of taking care of the issues we have at home here. Like, for example, whether it’s the Yakima Nation or the Colville tribe, or the areas in the Lower Valley, we’re all having issues of poverty. It’s time that we tried to stop sending money all over the world. I want our kids not to lose their future.  It is critical because we spent a trillion dollars in two wars. We wagered your future and these children’s future on those wars. As a combat veteran and seeing the suffering and the failures, I am going to stand up and do the right thing.  I don’t have a problem saying no to money, because lobbyists now control the whole outcomes of our life.”

W: “When I started this campaign, I made a promise that no one would get left behind. My entire campaign is working very hard that we reach every single community to encourage people to take control of their lives through the voting process. If I accomplish nothing in this race, other than to make sure that some people recognize that their votes are valuable, and they can participate and they can have stronger control over their future, to me that’s a win”.

Candidates for the 4th Congressional District who attended the "Power in Community" event in Pasco. Photos: Screenshots from candidates websites.