Grimes and McConnell each accept a debate invitation, but not the same one

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJune 5, 2014 

Alison Lundergan Grimes and Sen. Mitch McConnell

FRANKFORT — Kentucky's U.S. Senate candidates each have accepted an invitation to debate each other — just not the same one.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell accepted an offer last month from Louisville's WDRB-TV, a Fox affiliate, to attend a June 21 debate, but Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes did not mention WDRB in a letter she sent McConnell on Thursday outlining her criteria for debating.

In the letter, Grimes said she had accepted an invitation for an Oct. 13 debate from KET, and she hoped McConnell would join her.

Grimes said Kentuckians should "have a full opportunity to hear our viewpoints and understand the real differences in our visions for the future of the state." But, she said, "there are a few criteria for these debates where we disagree."

McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said Grimes was turning the proposed debates "into a political game."

She said the McConnell campaign would be "happy to have further discussions with the Grimes campaign" about debates, "but it's clear that this is devolving into a juvenile exchange of press releases rather than the serious presentation of the candidates' views that Kentuckians deserve."

A day after the May 20 primary elections, McConnell proposed that the two candidates debate three times before Labor Day. He proposed that the televised debates be conducted with only one moderator in a Lincoln-Douglas style, in which the candidates ask each other questions. He said there should be no audience and no props.

In her letter Thursday, Grimes said an audience should be at the debates.

"I believe we should welcome as many Kentuckians as possible who want to see firsthand the real differences in our visions for the commonwealth," she wrote.

Grimes also said the debates should not be "90-minute filibuster sessions; Kentuckians have had enough of that — they deserve the chance to participate and ask questions."

To maintain the integrity of the debates, Grimes said, none of the hosts or moderators should have endorsed either candidate or served as a surrogate for either campaign. WDRB general manager Bill Lamb endorsed McConnell in an editorial this year.

Moore responded that "it just took Alison Lundergan Grimes two weeks to decline the debate scheduled for June 21 and suggest that a hundred people in a live audience is more accessible to Kentucky voters than statewide broadcast television."

Grimes said she agreed with McConnell that no props should be allowed but disagreed that all the debates should take place before Labor Day. "In the two months leading up to the election, there is no more important time for the people of Kentucky to understand what's at stake," she wrote.

The general election is Nov. 4.

Grimes also urged McConnell to consider holding debates in different regions of the state, noting she has "received an invitation from Edmund Shelby to participate in a debate in Beattyville."

Shelby is editor of the Beattyville Enterprise. He reported in April that McConnell said it was "not my job" to bring employment to the struggling county. McConnell has said his comments were taken out of context, but Shelby said he stood by his newspaper's story.

Grimes also called on McConnell to sign a "People's Pledge" to ask all independent political groups to stop spending money on advertising in the race. "I would, of course, take similar action," she wrote.

Common Cause of Kentucky recently proposed that the candidates sign such a pledge. Under that proposal, if an independent group spends money to advertise on TV, radio, online or print supporting a candidate, that candidate must pay 50 percent of the cost of airing that ad to a charity of the other candidate's choice.

Grimes said she would sign the pledge, but McConnell declined.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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