The debate on debates roils on between U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Grimes offered her own set of debate guidelines Thursday, more than two weeks after McConnell challenged her to three showdowns starting June 21 at WDRB-TV and ending before Labor Day.
While McConnell suggested debates moderated by a single timekeeper without an audience, props or notes, Kentucky’s secretary of state countered that she believes “we should welcome as many Kentuckians as possible who want to see firsthand the real differences in our visions for the commonwealth.”
“Our debates also should not be 90-minute filibuster sessions,” Grimes wrote in her letter addressed to McConnell. “Kentuckians have had enough of that — they deserve the chance to participate and ask questions.”
Another point of contention is the timing of the debates, with McConnell hoping to conclude them by Labor Day. Grimes said the final two months would be critical for the two sides to present their views.
“There is no more important time for the people of Kentucky to understand what’s at stake,” Grimes wrote. “With these criteria in mind, I have accepted the KET debate invitation — an invitation you have accepted in previous campaigns — and hope you will join me.”
Kentucky Education Television has slated the debate for Oct. 13 on Kentucky Tonight, KET Executive Director Shae Hopkins said in a statement.
Grimes also suggested the candidates take their views to different areas of the state, noting Beattyville Enterprise Editor Edmund Shelby, who quoted McConnell saying bringing jobs to Lee County was not his job, offered to host a debate in Beattyville. McConnell’s campaign said his comments were taken out of context.
In an apparent shot at WDRB-TV General Manager Bill Lamb and columnist John David Dyche, Grimes said the debates’ moderators should not have “endorsed either candidate.” Lamb and Dyche have publicly backed McConnell over Grimes in editorials.
The station has offered the debate broadcast to a number of news outlets, and Lamb pledged Tuesday his station “will provide a completely unbiased forum for their ideas.”
While Grimes did not decline the WDRB-TV invitation, McConnell’s campaign took her letter as a de facto refusal.
“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,” McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement.
“Senator McConnell’s offer was an attempt to have serious exchanges that are free from distraction for Kentucky voters to evaluate their candidates, but we probably should have known Alison Lundergan Grimes would turn it into a political game. We’re happy to have further discussions with the Grimes campaign 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.”
Grimes also called on McConnell to sign a pledge requesting outside groups stop spending advertising dollars in the U.S. Senate race “and allow the campaigns to deliver their messages to Kentuckians unvarnished.”
“I would, of course, take similar action,” she wrote.