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

Thank you to everyone who submitted an application for a 2018 debate! We are reviewing applications and will announce our races and sites by June 30. Learn More: Debate Site Selection FAQ Sheet

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

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