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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Second WA Senate debate remains unconfirmed; secretary of state debate canceled

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley.
By David Gutman Seattle Times

A second debate between Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and her Republican challenger, Tiffany Smiley, remains unconfirmed after Murray’s campaign did not commit by a Wednesday deadline, the Washington State Debate Coalition said Thursday.

And a debate between Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs and his nonpartisan challenger, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, has been canceled after Hobbs said he would not be available any date before the election, the debate coalition said.

Hobbs’ campaign pointed out that they’ve already done one debate with Anderson, in August, and have two more scheduled: on Oct. 23 in Spokane and on Oct. 26 on the Seattle Channel. There was also a July debate with a handful of other candidates, who were eliminated in the August primary.

“We think four is a pretty good number of debates,” said John Wyble, a Hobbs spokesperson.

The one confirmed Senate debate will be at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at Gonzaga University in Spokane. It will be hosted by The Spokesman-Review and the League of Women Voters.

The debate coalition, a statewide alliance of media, education and civic groups founded in 2016, had hoped to host a second Senate debate on Oct. 25 in Seattle, but Murray’s campaign has not agreed. The debate coalition had set a Wednesday evening deadline for Murray to commit to the debate but said it did not get a response. (The Seattle Times is a member of the debate coalition.)

“Sen. Murray absolutely wants to participate in a second debate,” said Amir Avin, a Murray spokesperson. “Her campaign is in active discussions with other stakeholders to organize a second statewide debate in Seattle. We hope to announce another confirmed debate as soon as possible.”

Smiley, who has trailed in all public polls of the race, has been pushing for a series of debates.

The debate coalition had hoped to host a debate in the secretary of state’s race on Oct. 18. The coalition said it sent invitations to Hobbs and Anderson shortly after the August primary election.

“After weeks of working in earnest with the campaigns to gain a commitment from both candidates, the Hobbs campaign recently indicated that the Secretary will not be available at the day and time,” Alicia Crank, executive director of the debate coalition and Seattle CityClub, said in a prepared statement.

Hobbs cited both official and campaign-related scheduling conflicts in declining the debate, Crank said.

“The WSDC is a firm believer in holding a widely-broadcast exchange between the top two candidates in as many consequential races as we can so voters can compare and contrast their positions on important topics,” Crank said.