Sunday, December 02, 2007

Washington State University Snubs Vice Presidential Debate

Eastern Washington - 2,500 miles outside the Beltway

The Spokesman Review reports:

Washington State University's push to host a national political debate in Spokane wasn't snuffed out... by a search committee. The snub was self-inflicted.

Michael Tate, vice president of equity and diversity at WSU, announced... that Spokane had been passed over in its bid to host one of three presidential debates next fall.

But he failed to mention that WSU had been offered the chance to entertain the only vice presidential debate of the 2008 election, which attracted more than 43 million viewers in 2004 when Dick Cheney squared off against John Edwards.

"We had an offer to host the vice presidential debate," Tate confirmed, "but we decided, with the focus we had right from the beginning of getting one of the three presidential debates, that we were just not in the position to accept the vice presidential debate."

...officials in St. Louis, which got the vice presidential debate after WSU turned it down, were elated to receive the national attention by default.

"Spokane turned it down, great. St. Louis will take that business," said Donna Andrews, public relations director of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.


[After being defeated in his election bid] Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession said... he was aware of WSU's decision and supported the call.

WSU is located in Pullman, Washington - 75 miles south of Spokane in Whitman County. The article never addresses why WSU would have hosted the event when at least three universities are actually located in Spokane County. (And at least one recognized the importance of Vice Presidents when it endorsed Al Gore in 2000.)

Tom Keefe, a former Spokane County Democratic Chairman [and failed candidate for Congress], called Tate's decision a "blunder."

"I think beginning with the Clinton-Gore relationship, and clearly with the Bush-Cheney relationship … the vice president in the modern term is an important player," Keefe said. "For Washington State University to turn that down tends to confirm Washington State University's own self image as a second-rate place."

Curt Fackler, Spokane County Republican Chairman, called it "the wrong decision."

"Anytime you can be on the national stage and show off your area, that's a good opportunity," Fackler said.


Harry Sladich, director of the Spokane Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, worked with Tate to research the potential impacts and benefits of Spokane hosting a debate. He learned from a reporter Tuesday of WSU's decision.


Sladich said his organization focused its research on the impact the presidential debates. It never talked to city officials who previously hosted vice presidential debates.

"I'll bet the cities who hosted the vice presidential debates didn't have near the impact," he said. "We would rather save ourselves for another day when we can get a presidential debate."

Because of this laziness, WSU and Spokane should be forever barred from holding such events.

A member of Sladich's own staff indicated seven months ago that the bureau was considering the chance of landing the vice presidential debate. Tim Rhodes, a convention sales manager for the bureau who worked with WSU on the application, told The Spokesman-Review in April that Spokane has a track record of success hosting such events.

"It doesn't get much bigger than a presidential debate or a vice presidential debate," Rhodes said at the time. "I don't think we will ever host a Super bowl, so next to that, this is big."

Instead, no debate will held at a location noticeably west of the Mississippi.

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