What may well be the first gubernatorial debate of the Washington election season could happen June 12 in Spokane.
The Association of Washington Business, which has a long history of gubernatorial matchups in front of its membership, wants to have Attorney General Rob McKenna and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee face off the Bing Crosby Theater during the group's annual spring meeting.
But after it announced the debate this week, the Inslee campaign said it was still working on the schedule and hadn't yet committed to that event or any other debate, forum or joint appearance. (Editor's note: an earlier version of this post said the debate was set.)
"It's on our list of things we wanted to schedule," Jaime Smith, campaign spokeswoman said, adding she was aware the group has a long tradition of holding a gubernatorial debate but was baffled that AWB's announcement came before a formal commitment. "We've got lots of invitations."
Jocelyn McCabe, a spokeswoman for AWB, said scheduling a debate is a bit like planning a wedding. You get the place, the date, the time first, then handle some of the other details like format and lining up media partners a bit closer to the event. It has Greater Spokane Inc., as a co-sponsor of the debate. The group needed to schedule its spring meeeting in Spokane and book the hall for the debate now. It told the Inslee campaign it would announce the matchup in early January. And did.
"We're having the debate," McCabe said.
And if Inslee can't make it? They may be having a conversation with McKenna, because it requires at least two people to debate.
Also on the AWB's planned fight card -- oops, debate schedule -- will be state attorney general candidates Reagan Dunn and Bob Ferguson.
The debates will take place before either race is officially set, because the state primary isn't until early August. But that isn't a concern for the Inslee campaign. In fact, he's called for six debates across the state, divided geographically, and with some focusing on set issues, so to wait until after the primary for a half dozen debates would require cramming the debates pretty closely together.
McCabe, spokeswoman for AWB, said both campaigns would be given a set number of tickets to watch the debate along with the group's members.
Moderating both debates would be Austin Jenkins of Northwest News Network. The Bing has been the site of several memorable political debates for local offices.
Now it might be the back drop for what is a regular feature of most hotly contested races: a debate over debates.