A Democrat running for Congress in Washington state's fifth district said on the campaign trail that she worked in "opposition to U.S. policy in Central America" while she taught at the University of Central America.
Lisa Brown, who is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, made the previously unreported comment during an event at Washington State University on March 29, according to the Washington Examiner.
"I started on the activist side of politics," Brown said. "I worked in opposition to U.S. policy in Central America, which I felt was supporting governments that were not supporting the human rights of the people in the countries and creating war and refugees."
A group called Camaradas at WSU hosted the event, which was described as being "geared to student of color at WSU who want to meet candidate Lisa Brown."
Brown worked and taught in Nicaragua in 1990, and the Examiner included an old news article from that year that described her time in the country as a professor. Brown was teaching a macroeconomics seminar at the University of Central America and was, according to the article, "one of hundreds of so-called ‘internacionalistas,' cooperating with Nicaragua's outgoing Sandinista government by offering technical skills."
The "internacionalistas" strongly supported Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega—head of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, a democratic socialist political party—who was defeated in the 1990 presidential election.
The article added that Brown's "brand of economics is not the free-market kind embraced by the conservative UNO [National Opposition Union] coalition." Brown said at the time that she liked Nicaragua's mixed economy, "in which banks and other institutions are state owned." She also blamed the United States for Nicaragua's economic troubles, which contributed to Ortega's loss.
On the way to a march led by then-defeated president Ortega, Brown and other activists shouted, "Viva revolucion."
Ortega returned to the presidency in 2007, and Nicaragua is currently in the midst of economic and political turmoil, as he remains in power. Nicaraguan security forces have killed or injured more than 2,000 people since April. A United Nations report released last month included descriptions of illegal arrests, torture, and closed trials.
The McMorris Rodgers campaign on Thursday commented on Brown's past work in Nicaragua.
"America is a beacon of hope and the greatest experiment in self-governance the world has ever known because we fight for every person's unalienable human right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," a campaign spokesperson said. "Our nation is the paramount defender of these principles, especially for strangers in faraway places who are oppressed and suffering under socialist tyrants like Daniel Ortega."
The Brown campaign responded to scrutiny of the candidate's work in Nicaragua by saying the Congressional Leadership Fund is diverting attention from the issues "people really care about."
"Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is facing the toughest election of her career. The Congressional Leadership Fund strategy is to divert from the issues people really care about and create a line of personal attacks on candidates, based on falsehoods," spokesperson Keeley Smith said.
"Lisa’s long record of accomplishments for eastern Washington as a legislator and chancellor of WSU Spokane — including expanding access to healthcare and creating jobs in eastern Washington — shows how inaccurate it is to characterize her as extreme. The truth matters. While the current Congress is stuck in partisan gridlock, Lisa has proven that she knows how to listen and get things done," Smith said.
The Examiner reported last week that Brown's doctoral dissertation included words of admiration for 20th century communist leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and anarchist Emma Goldman. The Free Beacon reported earlier this week that Brown repeated her admiration for Flynn in an interview last year.
UPDATE 9/19/18 1:29 P.M.: This piece was updated with a statement from the Brown campaign.