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!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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