Kentucky voters will get at least one chance to see U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, debate the issues on statewide television.
Shae Hopkins, executive director of the Kentucky Educational Television network, announced Monday that McConnell's re-election campaign had accepted its invitation to debate Grimes at 8 p.m. Oct. 13 on Kentucky Tonight. Grimes accepted the invitation in June.
"Sen. McConnell feels very strongly that Kentuckians have the opportunity to evaluate both candidates as they discuss the issues face-to-face rather than an endless stream of television commercials, and this debate provides that opportunity," McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. "There is a large contrast between Sen. McCon nell's Kentucky leadership and Secretary Grimes' support for the Obama agenda, and we're eager to have that discussion with Kentucky voters."
McConnell and Grimes have been debating over debates since the May primary elections.
"After months of dragging his feet, our campaign is encouraged that Mitch McConnell finally agrees that Kentuckians deserve the opportunity to hear both candidates' viewpoints and very different visions for the commonwealth's future," Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said in a statement. "For 30 years, McConnell has sold Kentucky families out and sided with Washington special interests. It is time for Mitch McConnell to answer for his failed Washington record — 30 years is long enough."
Their only joint appearances have been at the Fancy Farm political picnic in Graves County this month and last year. They are scheduled to answer questions during a forum Wednesday at the Kentucky Farm Bureau headquarters in Louisville.
Several other civic groups, universities and media outlets have offered to host televised debates between McConnell and Grimes, but the campaigns have not agreed on other joint appearances.
A day after the primary elections, McConnell offered to participate in three "Lincoln-Douglas-style" debates before Labor Day with no audience. Grimes declined the offer, but during a speech at Fancy Farm she challenged McConnell to debate her on KET and in Beattyville and Pikeville.
The KET program will last one hour and be hosted by Bill Goodman. The format will be the same as other Kentucky Tonight programs in which Goodman questions his guests. He also will be taking questions from viewers.
"KET is proud to be trusted by the candidates and Kentucky's voters to provide a fair and independent platform in this pivotal U.S. Senate race," Hopkins said.
Libertarian candidate David Patterson, a Harrodsburg police officer, has not been invited to appear on the program.
In a release Monday night, Patterson said he was disappointed with KET and claimed the network created rules for the debate "which seem to be specifically aimed at preventing my participation." He said KET required that, prior to Aug. 16, four days after the filing deadline, a candidate be a legal candidate for office, maintain an active website, have raised at least $100,000, and be polling 10 percent or higher in an independent poll.
Patterson became a candidate Aug. 11 and was at 7 percent in two polls that included him in August.