Washington AG candidates talk public safety, immigration at WSU forum

From left to right: Pete Serrano, Nick Brown and Manka Dhingra. Screenshot courtesy TVW
From left to right: Pete Serrano, Nick Brown and Manka Dhingra. Screenshot courtesy TVW

The three candidates are Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, Democrat Nick Brown and Republican Pete Serrano

Carleen Johnson
The Center Square Washington

The three candidates vying to be Washington state’s next attorney general laid out their positions Tuesday night at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland. 

Democrat Bob Ferguson, who has been the attorney general since 2012, is leaving office, hoping to become Washington’s next governor.

The three candidates are Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, Democrat Nick Brown, who is a former U.S. attorney and counsel to Gov. Jay Inslee, and Republican Pete Serrano, the current mayor of Pasco.

The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters and Northwest Public Broadcasting, and the candidates responded to nearly two dozen questions, with public safety taking center stage.

“No matter where I travel around the state, I hear some common themes from people,” said Brown. “They are very concerned about public safety. How do we deal with firearm violence, the fentanyl crisis? How do we keep people safe from discrimination?”

Serrano said addressing the fentanyl crisis and lax prosecution for drug crimes will be his priority.

“We need an AG who is hyper focused, working with local prosecutors, with local sheriffs, with local police departments,” Serrano said.

The candidates were asked about all the lawsuits the AG’s office has brought against people, businesses and federal agencies. Ferguson has sued the Trump administration more than 80 times.

Dhingra said what happens in November with the presidential election will influence her decisions.

“If there is a Trump administration, then we have to do everything we can to protect Washingtonians,” Dhingra said. “Making sure we are protecting reproductive rights, LGBTQI rights.

Brown also mentioned the significance of the November election.

“We are all concerned about defending our democracy and our liberties, and I am very concerned about how those are being attacked now at the state and national level,” said Brown. “With the prospects of a second Trump administration, we have to have someone who is going to stand up to defend voting rights, abortion access, and protecting our environment.”

Serrano said who is in office in Washington, D.C. is not his focus.

“Regardless of whether I agree with who’s in that office, regardless of who is in the majority passing laws, my job is to protect Washingtonians,” Serrano emphasized.

Asked about Trump’s statement recently about vowing mass deportation of illegal immigrants, Brown and Dhingra said they would fight it.

“We’re talking about people, we’re talking about families, we’re talking about children,” said Brown. “If there are threats to their rights, their liberties, whether they are citizens or undocumented, we need an attorney general who is going to defend their rights.”

Dhingra said her background makes her uniquely qualified to defend immigrant rights.

“If and when I am elected, I will be the only immigrant attorney general in America, and I can’t tell you how important it is to have that voice on the national stage,” she said. “When Trump talks about rounding up immigrants and deporting them, he’s talking about people who look like me.”

Serrano said his focus will be on protecting legal immigrants.

“We shouldn’t allow anyone, whether it’s the southern border, the northern border or the ports, to skip the line and cheat those people out of the American dream,” he said.

The three candidates will continue campaigning up until the Aug. 6 primary, after which only two of them will advance to the general election.

According to Public Disclosure reports, Brown has $1.2 million in financial contributions for his campaign. Dhingra has $873,000 and Serrano has $162,000.

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.

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