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Senate candidates Patty Murray, Tiffany Smiley will participate in October debate at Gonzaga University

Sept. 18, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 18, 2022 at 7:58 a.m.


The two candidates for U.S. Senate in Washington have agreed to hold a debate in Spokane in late October.

The debate between Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley will be held at Gonzaga University on Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. The debate is being organized and jointly sponsored by the League of Women Voters and The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages speaker series, along with broadcast assistance from KSPS. The Washington State Debate Coalition also is affiliated with this debate.

Admission will be free, but tickets will be required to the event at the university’s Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center.

“Voter understanding is essential to our democracy,” Lunell Haught, president of the League of Women Voters’ Washington chapter, said in a statement. “Listening and watching candidates side-by-side helps voters decide how to vote.”

Murray is seeking her sixth term. Following August’s primary, Smiley had publicly demanded debates with Murray, who finished with a little more than 52% of the vote in a crowded field, saying in a statement on Thursday that her lack of commitment to hold a debate was “undemocratic.” Murray’s campaign had promised to appear at debates with Smiley before confirming late last week her appearance at the Spokane debate in an election cycle that has seen Senate challengers in Pennsylvania, Georgia and elsewhere push for live appearances prior to the Nov. 8 election. Both parties are seeking an edge in Congress’ evenly divided upper chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris being called on with historic frequency to break legislative ties.

“I look forward to debating Tiffany Smiley this October in Spokane,” Murray said in a statement accepting the invitation to appear in Spokane. “This will be one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes. I want voters in Washington state to understand there is a clear choice at the ballot box this fall.”

Smiley’s campaign did not provide any additional comment Saturday.

Smiley, a former triage nurse and wife of U.S. Army Maj. Scotty Smiley, who was blinded in an insurgency attack in Iraq, has been campaigning on a platform of tamping down inflation and addressing public safety concerns. Murray, in campaign ads that have been appearing for months on airwaves throughout Washington, has argued that an election victory is essential to preserving democratic integrity following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, and to preserve access to abortion care in Washington following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The debate is scheduled to last for an hour and will include questions from the public submitted to The Spokesman-Review and the League of Women Voters. Details about how to submit a question will be published later. Laurel Demkovich, the newspaper’s correspondent in Olympia, is scheduled to moderate the debate. The debate will air locally on KSPS-TV, with multiple streaming options being available, including via KHQ.

“One of our newsroom’s most important missions is to educate and inform our community, but do those things in ways that are engaging, interesting, relevant and even fun,” Rob Curley, executive editor of The Spokesman-Review, said in a statement. “In a world overwhelmed with the impersonal, and often polarizing, nature of social media, we wanted to actually bring our community together in ways … much more about people actually being in a room together, having great discussions, and proving that we all have much more in common than we have different.”

Gonzaga President Thayne McCullough welcomed the opportunity to host a U.S. Senate debate.

“The opportunity to witness a live debate between two candidates for national office is a rare and important one, a chance for our students and community to see the democratic process at work,” McCullough said in a statement.

The debate between Murray and Smiley will be preceded by an hourlong debate between candidates for Washington Secretary of State, Julie Anderson and Steve Hobbs. That debate will begin at 3:30 p.m., with a half-hour break before the Senate debate.

The Washington State Debate Coalition has invited the candidates to an additional debate Oct. 25 at Seattle University, but that event has not yet been confirmed. 

Ticket details for the Spokane event will be announced later.

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