Ross: Why Washington needs its Senate candidates on the debate stage now more than ever

Aug 18, 2022, 8:50 AM | Updated: Oct 20, 2022, 3:17 pm

Murray debate...

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On Monday, Republican Senate Candidate Tiffany Smiley issued a news release accepting two debate invitations from the Washington State Debate Coalition… and proposing two more.

There’s been no response yet from Senator Patty Murray – “radio silence” was how one story put it – the implication being Senator Murray might be thinking of ducking debates.

There is a dance that typically goes on in a race like this. The challenger wants as many debates as possible to get coverage and create legitimacy, while the incumbent wants as few debates as possible to deny that legitimacy.

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But I would be stunned if Patty Murray doesn’t debate.

This is not just a Senate race. This is a race for control of the Senate. Every Senate race this year is a race for control of the Senate.

And it’s also about the future of American Democracy.

Tiffany Smiley does not appear to be an all-in Trump supporter. Her website mentions “election integrity” – but she doesn’t sell MAGA hats, and she has said Joe Biden is the duly-elected President.

But she is in a party controlled by Donald Trump. And a debate would give us all a feel for which side she might choose if we go through another 2020.

I don’t see why Patty Murray would give up the chance to ask those questions.

She’s also got 30 years of experience with government budgets so that when her opponent talks about cutting spending, she can ask the questions dreaded by all new politicians – “and so… which programs would you cut? Whose health care would you take away? Which highways would you cancel? How many border patrol agents would you fire? Which disasters would you ignore?”

On the other hand, Murray would find herself on a stage with a woman 40 years younger and would be defending a President who will turn 80 in November.

There’s already an attack ad showing her face morphing into Joe Biden’s – so a debate would give her a chance to show she still has the energy for the job.

In short, there is plenty of material for the two debates already scheduled; there’s plenty for the two additional debates Smiley has proposed, and I think Patty Murray should accept not only those, but insist there be two more.

The Senate is a high-pressure job, and debates are about not just about showing you know the issues, but that you can respond under pressure. And I would expect that after 30 years in the Senate, Murray would welcome as many of them as her opponent wants.

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Ross: Why Washington needs its Senate candidates on the debate stage now more than ever