Carolyn Long is a Democratic candidate for southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District and, in the words of an early supporter, “Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s worst nightmare.”
Last Saturday, Long held a fundraising and listening session at a White Salmon resident’s house, followed by a town hall at the White Salmon Valley Community Library, where the topics ranged from term limits for members of Congress to campaign finance reform, and, of course, gun control.
According to her campaign website, “Carolyn Long grew up in Southern Oregon, where her mother worked as a waitress and her father worked a variety of jobs until they moved to Brookings to open a family business, John’s Fresh Produce. Carolyn worked at the store after school and during the summer, along with her sister and three brothers. She learned the value of hard work, the importance of community, and the joys and difficulties of starting and running a small business. After graduating from Brookings Harbor High School in 1984, Carolyn attended the University of Oregon. While a student at Oregon, she competed in speech and debate on the University's nationally-ranked Forensics program. She graduated in 1989 with degrees in Political Science, and Rhetoric and Communication. When not attending class, Carolyn paid for college by working as an Assistant Produce Manager at Safe-way. Immediately after college, Carolyn went to Rutgers University in New Jersey to pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science. She continued to return home during the summer months to work at John’s Produce and on the small family farm, where they grew raspberries and other produce for the store. In 1995, Carolyn was hired by Washington State University Vancouver. She has worked there ever since, both as a professor and in several administrative and leadership positions. Her research interests have focused on American Institutions, Public Law, American Public Policy and Public Civility.”
Long described her job as a professor at WSU Vancouver as “a person who teaches students how to discuss difficult issues and make them productive conversations rather than divisive.”
Long views town halls as forums to engage people in the same way she engages her students in the classroom, by encouraging people to listen and engage in the dialogue. This includes inviting those that would be ardently against her and her views on policy. During the town hall, she even asked if there was anyone in the room that was a hard-right Republican. If there were any, they did not speak up.
Long also believes that democracy in this country is slowly being lost to the divisiveness at the national level and through the leadership of the current administration. So much so, that she believes it is up to the improvement of democracy at the local level to improve it at the national level. At this, Long also acknowledged the millennials in the room, and strongly encouraged them to follow in the footsteps of those students from Parkland, Fla., and get involved in politics.
“It’s that generation that is going to change the world,” said Long.
The town hall then fell into a Q&A format.
The first question for Long was about who she would like to caucus with should she be elected.
“It’s a predictable answer, but everyone, even Republicans. Overall I will caucus with anyone who is receptive to me and my views on policy,” said Long.
Other questions were about her views on health care in rural communities, campaign financing, climate change, and policies she would like to implement. But much of the conversation at the town hall revolved around guns and gun laws, and what Long as a member of Congress would do to combat gun violence.
“Like all amendments [to the U.S. Constitution], I support the Second Amendment, however, exceptions should be made. The question is finding the line between what is ideal and what is possible,” said Long.
“I support comprehensive background checks and bump stock bans, I support raising the ownership age to 21, I am not quite there yet when it comes to supporting an assault weapons ban. I do not support the idea of arming teachers to keep our schools safe; we already ask our teachers to do and be so much for our kids,” she added.
Long suggested that the way to start the conversation on an assault weapons ban is to ask owners of assault weapons why they own them or feel the need to own them. Many members of the town hall audience shared their own experiences growing up with guns, but very few have ever had experience with assault weapons or more specifically AR-15s.
“Progress may need to happen incrementally, not ideal I know, but better than no progress at all or more divisiveness,” said Long.
Then the conversation shifted to mental health, particularly the mental health of young people today versus 20 years ago. Much of the conversation boiled down to the effects of bullying and how it is now almost impossible for kids to escape it with the advent of social media platforms.
For many in the room, bullying in school existed when they were growing up, but it did not come home with them like it does with today's generation through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Long suggested that social media platforms should be accountable for tracking cyberbullying. Parents also need to be involved in monitoring what their kids do or consume online. Long also suggests that more federal money should be put into schools so that there can be adequate counseling services for children and relief for teachers.
The last questioner at the town hall asked Long what she would be most proud of policy-wise if she won the 3rd Congressional seat.
“Any policy that reconnects our rural communities that have been ignored for far too long. Or any policy that allows me to engage with those that would be against me to help bridge the divide and heal some of the divisiveness in our own communities as well as the country’s,” said Long.