Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers challenged Democratic opponent Joe Pakootas on Monday to three debates this fall, including two in Spokane. Pakootas said he planned to counter with a proposal to do at least two more in other areas around the large 5th Congressional District.
McMorris Rodgers has debated opponents at least once in her previous re-election campaigns, although scheduling has sometimes been a problem when Congress stayed in session late into the fall. Congressional candidates usually get far more invitations to debate than they accept, but this may be one of the earliest efforts by the five-term incumbent to nail down a debate schedule.
In an email, McMorris Rodgers congratulated Pakootas for making it through the primary. “We should work together to ensure that the voters have a chance to hear our views on the important challenges faced by Eastern Washington and the nation,” she wrote in the email, which was copied to news organizations around the district.
She proposed doing debates that were either televised or would have a large attendance, and said her preference would be for a televised debate proposed by KSPS-TV, another debate sponsored by the Spokane Rotary or Greater Spokane Incorporated, and a third hosted by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re hoping for more,” Pakootas said. He said he wasn’t sure of all the debate invitations he’d received, but would like to have five or six, with the additional ones spread around the 10-county district.
Pakootas said he participated in several candidate forums during the primary campaign but has never been in a debate in either school or a previous campaign. His elections for Colville tribal council and tribal chairman featured joint meetings but not debates. But he’s familiar with negotiations and presenting arguments from holding tribal office and legal actions.
“I’ve debated my children and my wife,” he said. Asked if he usually won those, he replied: “Not usually.”