Kentucky voters will get one chance to see their U.S. Senate candidates debate side-by-side on television this fall — Halloween night.
After months of avoiding the same stage with his Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign said Tuesday it has accepted an invitation from Kentucky Educational Television to appear with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray on its Oct. 31 edition of “Kentucky Tonight.”
“Dr. Paul has taken his message directly to the people in over 110 town halls across Kentucky, so he is happy to accept KET’s debate invitation and continue his efforts to present voters with a clear picture of a Senator who believes in less spending, less taxes, and less debt,” said Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for Paul.
Paul, however, declined an invitation to debate Gray on television Oct. 30. That proposed debate was canceled Tuesday by the League of Women Voters, who were working in conjunction with the Lexington Herald-Leader, WKYT-TV in Lexington, WLKY-TV in Louisville and the University of Kentucky Student Government.
For months, Gray’s campaign has attempted to shame Paul into debating, which the Paul campaign has deflected by citing a busy schedule.
“Rand found plenty of time to debate when he was focused on the White House, but seems uninterested in Kentucky once again,” said Cathy Lindsey, a spokeswoman for Gray’s campaign. “One debate, the week before the election isn’t fair to Kentuckians.”
Both candidates have been invited to appear together at several events during the campaign, but Paul has either declined or insisted that the candidates appear separately.
For example, the Kentucky Farm Bureau Forum changed its format for the first time since 2002 to allow the candidates to appear separately. Commerce Lexington also chose to hold separate policy breakfasts for the candidates.
Kentucky State University sent out a news release after Paul didn’t respond to their request to appear at an Oct. 8 forum, claiming the two candidates would attend. Gray agreed, but Paul does not plan to attend.
Sports radio host Matt Jones, a Democrat, also invited the two senate candidates on his Oct. 5 radio show. Gray accepted the invitation and Paul didn’t respond, according to a post on Twitter by Jones.
During his 2010 campaign, Paul appeared five times with his opponent, former Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. When asked about the change Monday, Paul said his strategy for reaching voters has shifted.
“I’m so busy traveling and doing town halls that most of our effort is to try and get our message out,” Paul said after a town hall at Eastern Kentucky University. “Everybody has a different strategy on trying to get their message out. We think rallies like this with 200 people is really important for trying to get our message out and that’s how we’ll spend most our time.”
On KET, the two candidates will field questions from host Bill Goodman at 8 p.m. Halloween night.