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LIVE from Seattle Center: Maria Cantwell, Michael Baumgartner square off in debate

Two hours from now, the first (and perhaps only) televised senatorial debate for the 2012 cycle will begin taping at KCTS’ studios at Seattle Center. It will air tonight at 7 PM (KCTS high definition channels are 9.1 for over-the-air broadcasts, 009 on Dish or DirecTV, 109 on Comcast Xfinity, and 509 on Frontier FiOS). We’ll be covering the debate in real time as it is taped from the studio, and we invite you to follow along.

UPDATE, 12:30 PM: We’ll be getting started two hours from now.

UPDATE, 1:00 PM: Now just an hour and a half away.

UPDATE, 2:45 PM: In place at KCTS’ studios. Big thanks to the network for letting NPI be here to cover this debate. Hurray for PBS and public broadcasting!

UPDATE, 3:03 PM: Co-moderators Kim Abel (from the League of Women Voters of Washington) and Enrique Cerna (from KCTS 9) are going over the ground rules and introducing the candidates.

UPDATE, 3:07 PM: Senator Cantwell is first to give an opening statement. She’s emphasizing some of the accomplishments of her second term, including her role in reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and getting funding increased for community colleges.

UPDATE, 3:09 PM: Baumgartner’s opening statement was largely about family. He described his candidacy as a team effort between himself and his wife, and used the plural “we” instead of “I” when talking about his candidacy.

UPDATE, 3:12 PM: First question is about the so-called fiscal cliff. Baumgartner opens first, and immediately goes on the attack with a cheap shot, pointing out that when Senator Cantwell took office, the nation had a surplus (which the Bush administration gave away to the wealthy).

UPDATE, 3:14 PM: Senator Cantwell’s response to the fiscal cliff prompted Baumgartner hold up his challenge sign. Baumgartner attacked Cantwell for supporting the Bush administration’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Cantwell quickly parried back, using up two of her own challenges to rebut Baumgartner’s comments.

UPDATE, 3:15 PM: Second question is about Afghanistan. Senator Cantwell says she wants to bring our troops home. Baumgartner asserts that the planned withdrawal from Afgahnistan will not actually bring all of our troops home.

UPDATE, 3:16 PM: Baumgartner: “Senator Cantwell has consistently been in support of poorly planned wars.”

UPDATE, 3:16 PM: Third question is about the Patient Protection Act. “If you would repeal the Act, what would you put in its place?

UPDATE, 3:18 PM: Baumgartner: “I look at the situation and say we need to develop market forces to give him a product he can afford.” Says “tort reform” is needed to reform healthcare. (“Tort reform” is really about preventing public protection attorneys from being able to hold corporations accountable when they don’t serve their customers).

UPDATE, 3:20 PM: Cantwell dismisses Baumgartner’s call for allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, says she never saw so many letters from people and organizations from Washington State opposed to that idea. Says Patient Protection Act is working – we need to strengthen it.

UPDATE, 3:21 PM: Cantwell and Baumgartner just used up their last challenges arguing about healthcare reform.

UPDATE, 3:22 PM: Next question is about the DREAM Act. Cantwell says she supports it, says state really needs the DREAM Act as well as comprehensive immigration reform. “The conservative elements of the Republican Party” didn’t want to address immigration reform, she says.

UPDATE, 3:22 PM: Baumgartner begins his response by characterizing Senator Cantwell’s tenure in the Senate as “twelve years of failure”. What a petty, unsubstantiated attack. Where’s the evidence?

UPDATE, 3:24 PM: Baumgartner on immigration: “We have to look at this in a holistic way.”

UPDATE, 3:24 PM: Hallelujah – next question is about the climate crisis. Enrique Cerna wants to know what is each candidate’s strategy for dealing with the consequences of a warming world (including a rise in sea level).

UPDATE, 3:29 PM: Baumgartner is not convinced that the climate crisis is caused by humans, but says we should address the likely consequences nonetheless. Doesn’t provide much in the way of specifics.

UPDATE, 3:30 PM: Cantwell: “I worked in a bipartisan fashion with my colleague, Senator Collins” on a proposal to begin addressing the climate crisis. “This is an important issue for us… I want us to diversify off of fossil fuels. I don’t want to drill off the coast of Washington, and I don’t want to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge… two things I think my opponent supports.”

UPDATE, 3:30 PM: Next question is about the influence of money in politics. What do you think is the proper role of corporations in American elections?

UPDATE, 3:30 PM: Cantwell: Certainly supports transparency in elections. Says she supports McCain-Feingold. At a minimum, we need to correct [Citizens United], she says.

UPDATE, 3:30 PM: Baumgartner: “I think money in politics causes a big problem… Obviously I’m at a big disadvantage in this race. If I could wave a magic want, I’d eliminate television advertising.” Would “absolutely support” greater transparency.

UPDATE, 3:31 PM: Next question is about the federal budget. Baumgartner says we need a balanced budget. Cantwell says she wants to defend Social Security and Medicare no matter what. Let the Bush tax cuts expire, she says. Let’s get it done.

UPDATE, 3:32 PM: Next question is about Syria and Iran. Kim Abel asks: What is your approach to these two situations?

UPDATE, 3:32 PM: Cantwell: “Syria is a very complex situation… The key thing for us right now is to put pressure on China and Russia to get the Assad regime out of power, and not back down.”

UPDATE, 3:33 PM: Cantwell cites her work with Lisa Murkowski to impose tough sanctions on Iran. “I believe we’re starting to see Iran change because of that pressure on their economy.”

UPDATE, 3:34 PM: Baumgartner begins answer to Syria/Iran question by taking another cheap shot at Cantwell. As if it is her fault that the Bush administration didn’t pay for their foreign invasions and occupations.

UPDATE, 3:35 PM: Baumgartner: “I think this is [an area] where I would provide a lot of value in the U.S. Senate.”

UPDATE, 3:35 PM: Next question: What is the role of the federal government ensuring a quality education for children?

UPDATE, 3:36 PM: Baumgartner: “The federal government should set high standards and should test… Unlike Senator Cantwell, I support charter schools. I won’t be a tool of the teachers’ unions in the U.S. Senate.”

UPDATE, 3:37 PM: Cantwell: “I don’t want a Ryan budget.” Cites her support for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiatives. “I am not going to support ideas like the Ryan budget that would cut Pell Grants… We need to make college more affordable.”

UPDATE, 3:38 PM: Next question is about funding for PBS. “Tell us now… Where do you stand on funding for public broadcasting?”

UPDATE, 3:39 PM: Cantwell: “I really appreciate” public television. Implies she’ll strongly support continued funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

UPDATE, 3:41 PM: Baumgartner says “I really like Frontline” … then veers off a tangent and doesn’t answer the question about PBS funding.

UPDATE, 3:42 PM: Next question is about tribal gaming near Spokane. ‘Where do you stand on this proposed casino by the Spokane tribes?” Baumgartner opposes expansion, says it’s right next to Fairchild Air Force Base and could jeopardize base expansion.

UPDATE, 3:44 PM: Cantwell: “It’s very important that they [the tribe] go through the process.” Concludes her answer on that question and then circles back to Afghanistan.

UPDATE, 3:44 PM: Next question is about coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest. Why is it okay for us to export coal when we’ve stopped burning it?

UPDATE, 3:46 PM: Cantwell: “Working together on clean energy solutions [with Asian countries] would be a great idea.” Says she’ll be involved as process plays out for determining if the terminals make sense.

UPDATE, 3:47 PM: Baumgartner: “I have a lot of concerns about coal trains.” Cites health effects of coal dust and potential impact on mobility for emergency vehicles in places like Spokane.

UPDATE, 3:47 PM: Baumgartner does not sound like a conservative Republican in this debate. He sounds more like a Ron Paul libertarian.

UPDATE, 3:48 PM: Next question is about the practice of Border Patrol agents pulling people over. Baumgartner: “We should teach more police officers Spanish… Everybody should learn a foreign language.”

UPDATE, 3:49 PM: Cantwell: “This is a very important issue… it’s about balancing privacy rights and security.”

UPDATE, 3:50 PM: Cantwell: “I intervened on the Peninsula to ensure that the Border Patrol was working with local law enforcement.”

UPDATE, 3:50 PM: Moving now to closing statements.

UPDATE, 3:51 PM: Cantwell thanks audience, KCTS9, and Baumgartner. “This election… reminds me how much jobs and the economy are important here.” She’s reflecting on her record and never-ending work to listen to the concerns of businesses small and large in Washington State.

UPDATE, 3:57 PM: Baumgartner has just delivered his closing statement. He has both said and implied during his comments this afternoon that Senator Cantwell isn’t an effective representative for Washington State, but other than repeatedly describing Irag and Afghanistan as “Senator Cantwell’s wars” (a ludicrous attack if we ever heard one), he has offered no specific criticisms of her record.

And that’s it – we’re done!

The candidates have shaken hands and the lights have come on. Audience members are getting up from their seats. So long from Seattle Center!