Washington Senator Maria Cantwell’s campaign said late Wednesday night it will now commit to a Debate Coalition event on October 8 after initially declining the Coalition's invites.
Cantwell's strategist Michael Meehan told KING 5 they would participate in the 12:30 p.m. debate at Pacific Lutheran University, provided there are no unexpected changes with the U.S. Senate schedule.
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An open letter sent Tuesday morning detailed ongoing negotiations over the date and logistics of the televised debates originally scheduled for Saturday, October 6 and Tuesday, October 30.
“The Coalition proposed two debates for the Spokane debate to accommodate the fluidity of the U.S. Senate schedule,” reads the letter in part.
“Your campaign then wavered on your commitment to participate and provided no reply to the Coalition’s repeated requests for confirmation of participation,” the letter continues.
Last week, the Cantwell campaign proposed an alternative date of Monday, October 8, a federal holiday, citing unpredictability of the Senate schedule.
“Given the complexities of organizing a live, televised event in collaboration with so many partners, we were initially reluctant to change the date and time on such short notice. However, we consulted our partners and, as a result, the Coalition agreed to October 8 within 24 hours,” explains the Debate Coalition in the letter.
Despite ongoing negotiations with Debate Coalition organizers on Monday, the Cantwell campaign said it was looking for another local organization to host alternate debates.
"It's very disappointing," said Diane Douglas, executive director of the Seattle CityClub, who helped found the Debate Coalition in 201.
"We pursued this course of action--our letter to Senator Cantwell today in good faith and fully hoping, after having accommodated their requests and the vagaries of the Senate schedule, we could work with them."
"I think it's a terrible insult to the people of Pierce County, for starters, and the people of Washington state because, after 18 years, they deserve to hear from their own Senator," Hutchison told KING 5 on Tuesday.
However, late Tuesday night following media coverage of the debate drama, Cantwell's campaign reconsidered. A spokesman reached out to the Debate Coalition and said Senator Cantwell would commit to an October 8th debate, pending the senate schedule.
Huchison called the change "a win for the people," but she wants the afternoon debate broadcast statewide in the evening when more voters are likely to see the debate.
Negotiations continue, but Debate Coalition organizers say the debate appears to be moving forward. A second debate in Spokane is also in the works.
KING 5 and dozens of other media partners are part of the Washington Debate Coalition founded in 2016.
The Coalition has hosted previous U.S. Senate debates, a gubernatorial debates, and a mayoral debate, since launching.
Editor's note: The video report below was published before Senator Cantwell's campaign agreed to an October 8 debate.