The Washington State Debate Coalition was founded by Seattle CityClub in 2016 to enhance Washingtonians’ access to those who hold and seek our state’s highest elected offices. The Coalition is comprised of civic leaders, nonpartisan organizations, colleges and universities and media partners committed to leading the nation in setting a higher standard for political debates.

With 1,800 debate attendees and over 1 million viewers on TV/online in its inaugural year, the Coalition created a solution that tapped into a strong public desire across the state for direct access to candidates.

Debate Coalition News

WA State Debate Coalition will host debates for U.S. Senate and WA-8th

The Washington State Debate Coalition will host three debates in the Fall of 2018—two debates for U.S. Senate and one debate for WA-8th. The debates will be held throughout the state in October and broadcast statewide by the Coalition’s media partners.

  • Learn more about the debate locations and hosts: Press Release
  • Learn more about the site selection process: FAQ Sheet

Spokane Debate Hosts

Community Colleges of Spokane
Eastern Washington University
University of Washington
Washington State University Spokane
Whitworth University

Tacoma Debate Hosts

Bethel School District
Eatonville School District
Franklin Pierce School District
Tacoma Public Schools

Ellensburg Debate Hosts

Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce
Ellensburg School District
Kittitas School District
Thorp School District
Cle Elum-Roslyn School District
Easton School District
Associated Students of Central Washington University

We Believe Washingtonians Deserve Better

The bulk of information available to voters about candidates for our most important federal and state offices comes through highly partisan sources or advertising by the candidates and third parties. Public debate between candidates presents one of the few opportunities for the public to hear directly from candidates about why they should be elected as well as providing the opportunity for others to ask questions of the candidates and, even the opportunity for candidates to challenge each other.

What Does a High-Quality Debate Look Like?

In order to challenge prevailing trends and power dynamics that reduce political transparency, candidate accountability, and public participation, we have established the following criteria for high-quality political debates:

  • Incumbents and challengers both participate
  • Short answer and in-depth discussions of our most challenging issues
  • Broad distribution through a variety of mediums
  • Varied formats with public engagement elements
  • Geographic diversity

Coalition Members

A distinguished array of civic leaders, nonpartisan organizations, colleges and universities and media partners have joined the Coalition:

2018 Washington State Debate Coalition Sponsors

Lead Sponsors

Supporting Sponsor

Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Can Join?

The Coalition includes former public officials, nonpartisan organizations, colleges and universities and media partners. Although they come from all areas of the state (urban and rural Washington; eastern, western and central Washington), all Coalition members believe the need has never been greater for civic engagement that brings Washingtonians together. They see it as their responsibility to help inform public policy decisions and to create a transparent and civil process for the election of the leaders of our state.

Is there anything like this Coalition elsewhere?

The Washington State Debate Coalition was inspired by the work of the Commission on Presidential Debates and Indiana Debate Commission, but it is unique in its breadth of membership and working partnerships between civic and media organizations. The Coalition strives to create a solution that is uniquely tailored to Washington State voters and in line with Washington State’s values.

Questions About Hosting a Debate or Joining the Coalition:

Contact Allie Lindsay Johnson, Assistant Director at or 206.682.7395

Media Inquiries:

Contact Everett Lawson, Marketing + Web Manager at or 206.682.7395