Democratic U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell owed it to Washington state voters to commit to firm dates for debating her opponent, Republican Susan Hutchison.
Senator Maria Cantwell should have committed and kept her word.
As late in the campaign season as Tuesday, Washington state voters remained hard-pressed to know when and where they could see the Democratic incumbent face her Republican opponent — or whether two promised debates between the candidates would actually occur.
This is an unacceptable level of evasion for a U.S. senator seeking her fourth term, especially a mere three weeks or so before ballots go out in the mail.
What has become clear is this: Cantwell declined to participate in two previously announced debates with her Republican challenger, Susan Hutchison. Those debates — one set for Pacific Lutheran University on Oct. 6 and the other tentatively set for Oct. 30 at Gonzaga University in Spokane — had already been promoted heavily by the Washington State Debate Coalition. Comprising numerous news-media organizations, the coalition also put on U.S. Senate and gubernatorial debates in 2016.
Leaders of the debate coalition say they worked to accommodate Cantwell’s Senate schedule, including proposing two dates for the Spokane debate and saying they could move the Oct. 6 debate to Oct. 8, a change Cantwell’s campaign suggested last week. They say her campaign originally committed to the proposed Oct. 6 date back in July but then wouldn’t reply to subsequent communications about scheduling.
Cantwell should have made it a higher priority to appear before her constituents in a highly visible forum such as these debates.
Early Tuesday, Cantwell’s campaign vaguely promised the senator will appear at two different debates run by other groups. But it is unacceptable that at such a late stage of the campaign, details of those promised events had yet to be announced, nor the dates precisely pinned down.
Voters should have the opportunity to see their elected senator face her opponent in a widely broadcast and well-publicized event.
Cantwell must do whatever possible to ensure that still happens.