Senate campaign debate canceled

The League of Women Voters of Kentucky announced it has scrapped a planned Oct. 7 debate for the U.S. Senate candidates because U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has declined to participate.

The debate, which would have aired on various state television and radio stations, would have been in conjunction with the Kentucky Broadcasters Association meeting, according to a statement released by Teena Halbig, president of Kentucky's League of Women Voters.

Democratic candidate Bruce Lunsford agreed to the debate, Halbig's statement said. Invitations were sent to both campaigns in July.

"The McConnell campaign declined to have Senator McConnell participate. When asked if another date would be better, the campaign spokesperson said, 'We're just not interested,'" Halbig's release said.

McConnell also has not confirmed whether he will participate in the Oct. 27 debate on Kentucky Educational Television. When asked repeatedly about it earlier this month, McConnell said he has "tentatively accepted" an invitation by the Paducah Sun to debate on Oct. 3, while everything else is up in the air.

"We're going to probably do the one in West Kentucky, and the rest of them, we'll get back to you," McConnell told the Herald-Leader in response to several questions about whether he would show up for the statewide televised KET debate. Lunsford, meanwhile, announced earlier this month that he hoped to debate McConnell at least eight times, including the League of Women Voters/Kentucky Broadcasters Association event.

So far, McConnell and Luns ford have debated just once — a Lincoln-Douglas style debate in Northern Kentucky on Sept. 13. McConnell pressed Lunsford on foreign policy questions while Lunsford asked McConnell about his support for the Bush administration's policies.

The Senate race, once considered McConnell's to lose, has tightened over the last two weeks, according to independent media organization polls. Most recently, the Courier-Journal's Bluegrass Poll showed Lunsford and McCon nell in a statistical tie.