McConnell Issues Debate Invitation to Grimes

May 21, 2014

Polls show a virtual tie between McConnell and Grimes heading into the November election.

Updated Thursday at 8:52 a.m.:  The Grimes campaign says it will send Senator McConnell a full response to his debate invitation in the coming days.  In the meantime, Grimes' Campaign Manager Jonathan Hurst issued the following statement:

"Once again Mitch McConnell is behind Alison Lundergan Grimes. Days ago, she welcomed the opportunity to debate McConnell and our campaign stands ready to discuss details. He will need all the time in the world to defend a 30-year record of looking out for himself and creating gridlock in Washington. This campaign is about two very distinct visions for Kentucky's future: one puts forward bold ideas to put Kentuckians back to work, while the other does not believe it is his responsibility to bring jobs to the Commonwealth. What Kentuckians don't need are gimmicks and games. If Mitch McConnell truly wants this campaign to be a healthy debate about issues between the candidates, we should also agree to keep outside organizations from flooding Kentucky airwaves with special interest money."

Original post:

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell wants to debate his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes three times before the November election. 

In a letter to Grimes on Tuesday, Senator McConnell invites her to participate in three Lincoln-Douglas style debates, with no audience, props, or notes 

"I think it's very interesting that Senator McConnell issued the invitation," says University of Louisville Political Science Professor Dr. Laurie Rhodebeck.  "It's a little unusual that an incumbent would invite debates.  The tradition tends to be that incumbents avoid debates if at all possible."

The incumbent senator writes in the letter that “Kentucky voters will get their fill of campaign ads and scripted events this year, but the debates will provide an excellent format to evaluate our true views on the issues."

The Senate minority leader refused to debate his primary challenger, whom McConnell led by a wide margin.  Polls show a neck-and-neck match-up between McConnell and Grimes.

"Secretary Grimes has shown herself to be a very good fundraiser and she's run a fairly savvy campaign so far, including some fairly powerful TV commercials.  I think Senator McConnell realizes he has a very serious challenge and one way to meet that challenge is to use the debate arena," Rhodebeck told WKU Public Radio.  "Also, as he has pointed out, it's a way to bypass the news media, campaign advertising, to get around some of those filters that I'm sure both candidates find irritating."

McConnell suggests the first debate should be held by July 4th, before voters are inundated with campaign advertising.  McConnell wants the second debate to take place before Fancy Farm in August, and a third and final debate around Labor Day.

The Grimes campaign has not responded to WKU Public Radio about the invitation.