Senator Maria Cantwell agrees to debate Susan Hutchison

Sep 25, 2018, 1:26 PM | Updated: Sep 26, 2018, 11:17 am

Senator Maria Cantwell has agreed to debate Republican Susan Hutchison in the race for Washington’s Senate seat.

Cantwell, the state’s junior senator, had previously bowed out of the events, offering no explanation. But on Tuesday night, Cantwell reversed saying she’ll face challenger Susan Hutchison in October. The debates will be in Tacoma and Spokane. The first debate will be at Pacific Lutheran University, Monday, Oct. 8, at 12:30 p.m.

The debates come after Cantwell was criticized for not committing to them. The Washington State Debate Coalition says it organizes the most widely viewed debates in Washington state. The organization sent a letter to Senator Cantwell saying it was disappointed that she failed to commit to two public debates and claimed she was the first and only candidate to decline participation.

The coalition said it met with Cantwell’s staff on June 21 to discuss possible dates. Her staff confirmed an October 6 debate at Pacific Lutheran University. Per staff’s request, the coalition postponed announcement of the dates until after Labor Day and then proposed two debates for Spokane to accommodate the Senate schedule.

“Your campaign then wavered on your commitment to participate and provided no reply to the Coalition’s repeated requests for confirmation of participation and proposed dates over the next several weeks,” the coalition wrote.

It said that, despite scheduling logistics with media partners and sponsors, it would even agree to an alternative date of October 8.

“Until last week, your campaign never advised you would not do a debate after ballots were mailed,” the coalition wrote.

It added that five senators from other states are participating in debates on the same dates that the coalition proposed.

The letter requests Cantwell re-consider attending a debate scheduled in October — the first on Oct. 6 at PLU and the second on Oct. 30 at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Both debates are free and open to the public.

“We will have a podium waiting,” the coalition wrote.

The coalition, founded by Seattle CityClub in 2016, says it has more than 80 media partners statewide and more than 40 colleges and universities, school districts, chambers of commerce, nonpartisan organizations and corporate and foundation sponsors. Its debates are held in all regions of the state.

Cantwell’s office said in an email to KIRO Radio Tuesday, “Senator Cantwell will do at least two debates. We are working with a number of media and civic groups to confirm the details.”

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Senator Maria Cantwell agrees to debate Susan Hutchison