Democrat Rich Cowan and Republican Mike Baumgartner seem to have a shared problem of getting the incumbents they want to unseat to debate with them as many times as they want. Or at all.
Cowan, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives against Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, proposed 10 debates, one in each county for Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District. McMorris Rodgers agreed to two, both in Spokane. One would be sponsored by Greater Spokane Inc., the other by KSPS-TV, which has handled a 5th District debate for years, even in those elections when no one else cared to.
Baumgartner has proposed 39 debates, one in each county of Washington state, against Democrat Maria Cantwell. So far, Cantwell hasn't agreed to any, although there are several invitations pending.
In replying to Cowan's letter requesting 10 debates, McMorris Rodgers used Cantwell as her leverage in accepting two: “I contemplated following the lead of our junior senator and only schedule debates with my opponent when she has scheduled debates with hers.”
But folks in Eastern Washingo deserve to hear a discussion of the issues, so she was agreeing to the GSI and KSPS invitations. “Additionally, if you are able to encourage Senator Cantwell to debate Mr. Baumgartner in all 39 counties, I would be happy to debate you in all 10 counties located in the 5th Congressional District. We could arrange our debates in tandem with senate debates as well.”
A spokesman for the Cantwell campaign said she has dozens of invitations for a variety of forums, debates and editorial boards, as well as “a large chunk of September” that will be taken up by the Senate's work schedule.
“We will debate,” Kelly Steele said, but there's no commitment at this time on how many times, when or where. That will likely become clear in early September, he added.
This leaves us at Spin Control pondering the question of which is stranger: Ten debates in Eastern Washington, which would essentially be one a week between now and the election? 39 debates across the state, which would essentially be one every other day between now and the election? Or one candidate conditioning her debate schedule on her opponent convincing a candidate for another office to debate an opponent of another party?
Feel free to weigh in, in the comment section.