Maria Cantwell (left) and Susan Hutchison.

Maria Cantwell (left) and Susan Hutchison.

It took a while but Cantwell and Hutchison are set to debate

The candidates agreed to televised debates in Tacoma and Spokane — unless the Senate is in session.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Susan Hutchison are going to debate in front of a statewide audience after all.

Whether it will be once or twice isn’t certain.

Cantwell and Hutchison have agreed to debates on Monday at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma and Oct. 20 at Spokane Community College, the Washington State Debate Coalition announced Tuesday.

The debate at Pacific Lutheran University is to run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., with the match-up in Spokane scheduled from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The debates will be streamed online and televised live. Participating stations also may tape them for rebroadcast at a later hour, according to the coalition.

The debate in Tacoma might still get bumped because the U.S. Senate could be voting Monday on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. No back-up date for a Tacoma debate was announced by the coalition.

That possibility didn’t tamp down Hutchison’s excitement. She encouraged supporters to attend and provided a link on her campaign web page to sign up for a seat.

She is “very much looking forward” to these, said Steve Beren, her campaign spokesman.

Michael Meehan, Cantwell’s longtime political advisor, pointed out that in addition to the debates, the senator and her opponent are expected to appear together in front of various newspaper editorial boards.

“We look forward to these half a dozen or so debates later this month,” he said.

Nailing down the two public debates wasn’t simple for the coalition, which was founded in 2016 by the Seattle CityClub. It includes civic leaders, business groups, colleges and universities, plus more than 80 media organizations including The Daily Herald, the major television network affiliates and PBS channels.

There were weeks of wrangling that raised doubts about whether Cantwell, who is seeking her fourth term, would share a stage with Hutchison, the former chairwoman of the state Republican Party, before the Nov. 6 election.

Seattle CityClub Executive Director Diane Douglas, working on behalf of the coalition, initially penciled in Saturday and Oct. 30. But the senator wouldn’t commit. Her staff expressed concern the Senate might be in session on the first date and didn’t want the second debate to occur that late in the election cycle.

At one point, coalition leaders sent Cantwell a letter urging her to reconsider her position. The letter, which the coalition then posted online, recounted efforts to accommodate Cantwell and vowed to proceed on the original dates and “have a podium waiting” should the senator change her mind.

Douglas later offered Monday and Cantwell accepted.

None of the discord and tension was evident in the news release issued Tuesday by the coalition.

“We are excited to move forward with these two U.S. Senate Debates,” Douglas said. “The coalition has tapped into a strong public desire for direct access to candidates and greater understanding of their qualifications and differences on the issues.”

Details on how to attend, submit questions for candidates, or view the debates can be found through the Seattle CityClub website,

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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