Rantz: Inslee vs Culp gubernatorial debate is now back on after concession
UPDATE 1:10PM on 09-15-20: The Loren Culp campaign made a concession and says the debate will now likely occur on October 7. Culp confirms to the Jason Rantz Show that he will debate Jay Inslee in separate studios, but neither staff nor electronic devices can be allowed in the rooms with the candidates. Culp tells me he’s not pleased with the Washington State Debate Coalition, as they completely ignored the campaign’s position while forwarding a scenario that made Inslee happy. The Coalition has not yet announced the deal.
There will almost certainly be no debate between incumbent Governor Jay Inslee and his Republican challenger Republic Police Chief Loren Culp.
Despite attempts by the Washington State Debate Coalition (WSDC), both campaigns have not agreed to terms. The sticking point? Culp’s team wants an in-person, socially distanced debate.
But the Inslee campaign refuses to be in the same room as Culp during a pandemic. And the WSDC said their debate staging demand of separate rooms for the candidates was “non-negotiable.”
Inside the failed debate negotiations with Inslee and Culp
Culp’s campaign took a hard line, but on only one point: Debate live, in-person.
Inslee’s campaign insisted early in the process that the governor debate should be from home, a nod to his administration taking the pandemic especially seriously. But in the last week, Inslee undercut his stay-at-home approach, holding meetings and press briefings in public to address the state’s wildfires. Before that, Inslee was holding press conferences with other leaders without the sudden concern he’s taking with Culp.
The WSDC hoped to convince the candidates to debate in-studio at TVW in Olympia, but in separate studios. The concessions appear to have been made to accommodate the Inslee campaign’s purported COVID-19 concerns.
“Candidates will broadcast from separate and distinct offices on TVW’s second floor. Candidates will be able to access their designated office by separated entrances. The studio and offices will be sanitized with an alcohol-based sanitizer prior to, and after, each event.”
Culp’s campaign confirmed to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that they balked, telling organizers, “We want Inslee in the same room or no deal.”
The Culp campaign called out Inslee’s inconsistency in an email to the WSDC, rejecting their idea of a debate in separate offices.
“[Inslee’s] application of ‘health and safety’ rules is inconsistent with his past public appearances and his own safety rules as he applies them to other Washington citizens. He regularly appears in the same room with staff utilizing little or no social distancing.”
The campaigned also noted that “Mr. Inslee’s own rules declare that he and Mr. Culp could go to a restaurant and sit at the same table and have a discussion of the issues — all without masks or social distancing, and yet, he brings us this offer of separate rooms.”
The campaign then reiterated their desire for several debates, so long as they’re live, in the same studio, and everyone is properly social distanced.
But the WSDC said their debate staging with candidates in separate rooms was “non-negotiable.” At that point, Culp’s campaign left negotiations, saying they’ll re-engage if they could be socially distanced on the same stage.
Initial hopes dashed
The WSDC thought they were close to a debate agreement after earlier negotiations failed.
Though the planned Sept. 29 debate was scrapped, a source with the WSDC said they thought the two campaigns would agree to debates on Oct. 7 and 15 with the campaigns in separate rooms. They planned to announce the debates on Sept. 8 — a deadline that has come and gone.
On Monday, the WSDC downplayed the stalemate negotiations.
“We’re waiting to hear final confirmation from all candidates and will send you the press release with all of the details as soon as everything is finalized,” a spokesman told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
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