Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Washington State Debate Coalition?

The Washington State Debate Coalition (WSDC) is a coalition of public-minded individuals and community leaders, vital community organizations and institutions, and media outlets who believe voters deserve to hear from candidates for public office before they mark their ballots. The Coalition works collaboratively in advance of every election season to provide a public forum for incumbents and challengers to exchange ideas and encourage civic engagement of constituents.

When was the WSDC founded?

The Coalition was founded by Seattle CityClub in 2016. Since then, the WSDC has held seven public debates – four in 2016 and three in 2018 – in front of more than 2,300 audience members and about 1.5 million television and online viewers.

Why are public debates necessary?

The Coalition maintains that debate between candidates seeking the same public office is the best mechanism by which voters can hear from candidates before making their own voices heard at the ballot box. Public debates have a long and proud history in our nation, and the WSDC believes debates remain vital to a functioning democracy.

Do organizations like the WSDC exist elsewhere?

Yes, the most high-profile of which is The Commission on Presidential Debates. Additionally, the WSDC is proud to acknowledge that it has worked collaboratively with like-minded organizations in other states, including the Ohio Debate Commission and the Indiana Debate Commission. The Coalition is joined by these partners on the State Debate Coalition.

Should 2020 public debates be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

No. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirms the need for candidates for public office to publicly share their opinions and ideas for government and society. Few periods in recent American history have demanded so much those living in the U.S., and it is imperative that we require the same of our public officials and those who challenge them.

How were candidates selected to participate in debates?

Candidates who advanced out of their race’s Primary Election were invited to participate WSDC debates.

How is the WSDC governed?

The WSDC is a program of Seattle CityClub (SCC) and is led by a steering committee comprised primarily of volunteers from the community, as well as some SCC staff and Board members. The committee provides the strategic guidance and day to day support needed to produce in-person and virtual debates and ensures debates are accessible to people throughout Washington State. Committee members rotate every few years.

How is diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) incorporated into the planning of the debates?

SCC and WSDC consider diversity, equity and inclusion in planning all programs and civic engagement. From media partners, education institutions, and organizations involved WSDC encourages all communities to be involved in the debates and engaged in their democracy across the state.

Questions about hosting the WSDC: