Wednesday, May 21, 2014

McConnell, who has avoided or limited debates in the past, proposes 3 by Labor Day; Louisville station offers June 21; KET asks to be considered

Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has greatly limited debate appearances with his Democratic opponents, sent Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes a letter today proposing that they have three "traditional Lincoln-Douglas style debates moderated only by a single timekeeper/moderator . . . in order to present our views fairly and without interpretation by traditional media filters."

The senator said the first debate should be held before July 4, the second before the Aug. 2 Fancy Farm Picnic and the third "around Labor Day . . . in order to present our views before Kentuckians are inundated with advertising." He referred to the last one as "third and final," suggesting that he might not participate in Kentucky Educational Television's candidate forum series.

Grimes told Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader, "My team will get with his campaign to work out the details of that, but that's something that I have always been open to. I look forward to holding him accountable."

WDRB-TV in Louisville offered to host the first debate on Saturday, June 21, and McConnell immediately accepted, pending discussion of the specifics with the station and Grimes.

McConnell told Grimes in his letter that the debates should be held without a live audience, props or notes to allow "an unvarnished exchange of views for Kentuckians to evaluate." Abraham Lincoln and Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois had large audiences for their seven public debates in 1858, before the advent of radio or television.

McConnell, who is expected to have more money and be supported by more advertising than Grimes, and is known for strong ad campaigns, told her, "Kentucky voters will get their fill of campaign ads and scripted events this year, but three Lincoln-Douglas style debates will provide an excellent format to evaluate our true views on the issues." For a copy of his letter to her, click here.

UPDATE, May 22: Shae Hopkins, KET executive director and CEO, sent Grimes and McConnell a letter saying, "With the general election now underway, as you discuss joint appearances with your opponent, we hope you will consider KET with our long tradition of fair and trusted candidate forums and election coverage. As the only statewide broadcaster, accessible to all Kentuckians, KET would welcome the opportunity to host multiple joint appearances to discuss the important issues facing the Commonwealth and the nation."

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