Open Letter to Senator Maria Cantwell from The Washington State Debate Coalition

Dear Senator Cantwell:
We know that you agree Washington residents deserve highly promoted, visible and accessible candidate debates that are broadcast to voters across the state. That’s why we are especially disappointed in your campaign’s decision not to participate in the two public debates organized by the Washington State Debate Coalition.
We hope you will reconsider.
Publisher’s Note:  Why is Senator Cantwell hiding?  Could it be that she is embarrassed about the way that her party has been acting?  Does she condone and stand for the violence, harassment and smear campaigns that her fellow Democrats apparently think are ok?
The Washington State Debate Coalition holds the most widely watched debates in our state and includes the largest number of supporting partner organizations. You are the first and only candidate to decline participation in the Coalition’s debates.
The Coalition was founded by Seattle CityClub in 2016 to enhance Washingtonians’ access to those who hold and seek our state’s highest elected offices. With 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, the Coalition represents the broadest reach of the Washington public. Its debates are free, open to the public, and sited on college and university campuses in eastern, western and central Washington.
In 2016, the Coalition tapped into a strong public desire for direct access to candidates and greater understanding of their qualifications and differences on the issues. 1,800 Washingtonians attended four live debates with gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates and more than one million people watched them on television and online to inform their votes.
On June 21, the Coalition met with your designated campaign staff to discuss proposed debate dates. In late July, your staff confirmed by email the Coalition’s proposed date of October 6 for one debate at Pacific Lutheran University. At your campaign’s request, the Coalition postponed public announcement of its debate dates from the week of the primary in early August to after Labor Day. The Coalition proposed two debates for the Spokane debate to accommodate the fluidity of the U.S. 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. Then last week, your campaign contacted the Coalition to propose October 8 as an alternative date for one debate.
Given the complexities of organizing a live, televised event in collaboration with so many partners, we were initially reluctant to change the date and time on such short notice. However, we consulted our partners and, as a result, the Coalition agreed to October 8 within 24 hours.
We completely appreciate and respect that confirmation of debate dates is difficult because you don’t dictate the Senate schedule and may be needed for votes.  However, we initially chose these debate dates and offered alternatives—including the one you requested—to accommodate the Senate schedule. We chose October 30 for the Spokane debate because it follows the scheduled conclusion of the Senate session.  Until last week, your campaign never advised you would not do a debate after ballots were mailed. It is important to note that U.S. Senate incumbents from five other states are moving forward with scheduled debates, including some on the same dates we’ve already scheduled.
Young Washington voters and soon-to-be voters deserve to have candidates show up on their campuses to inspire their lifetime commitment to voting and active civic engagement.
We will hold true to our commitment.
In October, the Coalition is currently scheduled to host three debates:

  • The 8th Congressional District on October 17 at 7 p.m. at Central Washington University, and
  • Two U.S. Senate debates on Saturday, October 6 at 7 p.m. at Pacific Lutheran University and on Tuesday, October 30 at 7 p.m. at Gonzaga University.

With your concurrence, we will change the date of the PLU debate to October 8 and notify the public accordingly. All are open to the public and free of charge.
A September 18 resolution of Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University “strongly urges Senator Maria Cantwell to attend the debate at Karen Hille Phillips Center at Pacific Lutheran University…(because) Pierce County has traditionally had a very low voter turnout and this event can stimulate interest in politics and elections beyond the PLU campus.”
We will have a podium waiting.
Respectfully,
The Washington State Debate Coalition