NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Meet the candidates vying to succeed Kris Lytton in the 40th LD: Rud Browne

Editor’s Note: This is the third install­ment in a series about the can­di­dates vying to suc­ceed Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris Lyt­ton in Washington’s 40th Leg­isla­tive District.

Vot­ing is under­way in Wash­ing­ton’s August Top Two elec­tion, with dozens of new can­di­dates vying for open posi­tions in the State Legislature.

In Washington’s 40th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, where wide­ly respect­ed House Finance Chair Kris Lyt­ton is retir­ing after many years of ser­vice, four Democ­rats and two Repub­li­cans are com­pet­ing to be elect­ed to the State House. The dis­trict includes San Juan Coun­ty, as well as por­tions of What­com and Skag­it Counties.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic field alone is impres­sive­ly diverse. In pre­vi­ous installe­ments in this series, we high­light­ed the can­di­da­cies of Alex Ramel and Debra Lekanoff.

Today, we take a look at the can­di­da­cy of Rud Browne.

After Browne made the deci­sion to run for Lyt­ton’s seat back in the spring, he went to work quick­ly to build sup­port for his cam­paign. With­in forty days, he had sought and received over two hun­dred endorse­ments from orga­ni­za­tions, elect­ed offi­cials, and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers in sup­port of his House bid.

Browne has an unusu­al back­ground for a state leg­isla­tive candidate.

Short­ly after his birth in Aus­tralia, his father suf­fered one of four heart attacks that forced the fam­i­ly into pover­ty due to med­ical expenses.

Browne’s moth­er was qual­i­fied as an ana­lyt­i­cal chemist, but at that time, women were not allowed to work in the gov­ern­ment jobs she had trained for if they were mar­ried. The fam­i­ly sub­se­quent­ly end­ed up on welfare.

At six­teen, Browne had to leave school and work. His father died the fol­low­ing year and his broth­er soon after that. Browne went back and fin­ished high school at twen­ty-three before teach­ing him­self com­put­er pro­gram­ming and work­ing in the com­put­er indus­try. He then moved to Cana­da to do con­sult­ing work where he met and mar­ried his wife. The cou­ple has now lived in Belling­ham for twen­ty-four years.

After many dif­fer­ent jobs, Browne’s career took a turn.

“I start­ed a busi­ness,” Browne explains, “and the busi­ness real­ly took off.”

That busi­ness was a sus­tain­able recy­cling firm called Ryzex that repur­posed data col­lec­tion equip­ment (for exam­ple, bar­code scan­ners). Browne grew the busi­ness to three hun­dred and six­ty employ­ees in five coun­tries and proud­ly notes that it pro­vid­ed fam­i­ly wage jobs with health­care and fam­i­ly leave. He was respon­si­ble for over­see­ing the company’s even­tu­al $75 mil­lion budget.

“If we didn’t make our num­bers, it came out of my pock­et and nobody else’s,” Browne stat­ed. He believes his expe­ri­ence cre­at­ing hun­dreds of good jobs that pay a liv­ing wage to Wash­ing­ton fam­i­lies will help him be a good legislator.

Browne also has a his­to­ry of pub­lic service.

In 2011, he sold Ryzex. Two years lat­er, he ran for the What­com Coun­ty Coun­cil. He won his race with 52% of the vote, dis­lodg­ing a Tea Par­ty incumbent.

He was reelect­ed in 2017 with 81% of the vote.

“What I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly proud of with that one, is not the 81%, it’s that the only way to get [that many votes] was to pick up all the pro­gres­sive votes and a third of the con­ser­v­a­tive votes,” he explained. “That demon­strat­ed that I was will­ing and able to work across the aisle for bipar­ti­san solutions.”

He described that moment as his proud­est of 2017, when he real­ized peo­ple of all polit­i­cal per­sua­sions rec­og­nized that he was a con­sen­sus builder.

Now, after serv­ing on the What­com Coun­ty Coun­cil, Browne wants to head to Olympia to take on a new chal­lenge. Hav­ing served at the local lev­el, Browne is all too famil­iar with the con­straints that cities, coun­ties, ports, and school dis­tricts have to con­tend with. As sub­d­vi­sions of the state, they only have the pow­ers and rev­enue options that the Leg­is­la­ture gives them.

“I don’t think there are a lot of peo­ple in the state Leg­is­la­ture that [have] actu­al­ly worked in city or coun­ty gov­ern­ment, which means there’s not a lot of peo­ple that have actu­al­ly had to deliv­er on the deci­sions that they make at the state cap­i­tal,” he explained. “But I have.”

Should Browne win, there are many issues he says he would be inter­est­ed in tack­ling. One, how­ev­er, he con­sid­ers his sig­na­ture mis­sion and is an issue he believes could be rel­a­tive­ly eas­i­ly fixed with leg­is­la­tion and resources at the state lev­el: Home­less youth and their strug­gle to gain valid identification.

“Half the home­less U.S. cit­i­zen kids can’t get IDs,” Browne says. “So half the kids you dri­ve by, they’re stuck there because they don’t have valid iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and they can’t get it.” He added that this starts a detri­men­tal cycle, where youth engage in “sur­vival crime because it’s the only way to feed them­selves,” and then are sent to jail repeat­ed­ly and con­se­quent­ly have a crim­i­nal record. “We could have stopped the whole cycle if we had giv­en them a way to get iden­ti­fi­ca­tion,” he says.

If you lose your par­ents and your iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, it’s extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to estab­lish who you are in the eyes of the law. It’s a sys­temic prob­lem, and Browne believes he is the only can­di­date run­ning on it as a sig­na­ture issue.

“I’ve been quite suc­cess­ful in my life, but I start­ed from a back­ground of pover­ty,” stat­ed Browne, “and pover­ty leaves a stain on you that you can’t wash off because it affects your sense of self. It’s very hard to forget.”

He adds that while he may have been suc­cess­ful in busi­ness, he has nev­er for­got­ten where he start­ed from. “I nev­er for­get when I look at some­one else expe­ri­enc­ing pover­ty… I know how they feel because I’ve been there.”

For Browne, run­ning for office is about giv­ing back.

“I want to go to Olympia, not because I have any aspi­ra­tions of being a career politi­cian… I’m going sim­ply because I’ve spent most of my life look­ing for ways to serve the com­mu­ni­ty I live in. I see this as the next oppor­tu­ni­ty to do that.”

“To me, this is pure­ly a pub­lic ser­vice role… It’s sup­posed to be a citizen’s Leg­is­la­ture. It’s sup­posed to be cit­i­zens com­ing to serve and then allow­ing oth­ers to serve. I’m inter­est­ed in being a com­mu­ni­ty servant.”

Wash­ing­ton State’s Top Two elec­tion ends on August 7th, 2018, when bal­lots are due back. All nine­ty-eight posi­tions in the State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives are being con­test­ed along with half of the Senate’s forty-nine posi­tions. If you’re a Wash­ing­ton vot­er, be sure to get your bal­lot to a drop box by 8 PM on August 7th or to a post office that day by the last out­go­ing mail col­lec­tion time.

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