U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has decided to debate her Democratic opponent twice before the November election.
After this month's primary, Democrat Rich Cowan challenged McMorris Rodgers to debate him in each of the 5th Congressional District's 10 counties. After her town hall meeting on Thursday in Spokane, McMorris Rodgers said that she responded to Cowan in writing by agreeing to his request - but only if Washington's Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell agrees to debate her Republican rival in all 39 of Washington's counties.
So, in orther words, her answer was no — though it's worth noting that her decision to debate twice is twice as many as she agreed to in 2010.
There is a long history of debates in the district. McMorris Rodgers has participated in debates in each election cycle, though she initially declined to debate her Democratic opponent, Daryl Romeyn, in 2010. Ten debates would be unusual, but isn't totally without basis. In 1994 then-House Speaker Tom Foley agreed to debate George Nethercutt nine times. Nethercutt won the race.
As far as we can tell, Cantwell's Republican opponent, Michael Baumgartner, a state senator from Spokane, hasn't requested to debate Cantwell 39 times. According to The Seattle Times, he's agreed to four debates, while Cantwell hasn't agreed to any, though her campaign staff has said she will.
Jeremy Deutsch, McMorris Rodgers' chief of staff, said McMorris Rodgers has agreed to a debate that will be aired on KSPS-TV and another that will be sponsored by Greater Spokane Inc., the region's chamber of commerce.