BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday challenged his fall Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes to three debates, pitting his 30 years of policy experience against Kentucky's first-term secretary of state.
At a campaign stop on Wednesday, Grimes said she would welcome the debates with McConnell.
"My team will get with his campaign to work out the details of that but that's something that I have always been open too," she said. "I look forward to holding him accountable."
The GOP Senate leader sent a letter to Grimes inviting her to three Lincoln-Douglas style debates "without an audience, without props, and without notes."
"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," McConnell wrote in the letter to Grimes.
McConnell wants the debates to happen quickly. He said the first one should come before July 4th "before Kentuckians are inundated with advertising." He wants a second debate before the Fancy Farm political picnic - the state's premiere political gathering the first Saturday in August - and a third around Labor Day. The election is Nov. 4.
"I know in the vein of actually having the public and the citizens of Kentucky being able to hear that conversation, he will have no problem agreeing to actually keeping the millions of dollars of political action committee money off of the airwaves so they can hear those debates," Grimes said.
McConnell agreed to have a Louisville TV station host the first debate, scheduled for June 21st. But the Grimes' campaign has yet to agree to a date, format or host.
McConnell refused to debate his Republican challenger leading up to Tuesday's primary. But he enjoyed a wide lead in that race. Recent polls show McConnell and Grimes in a virtual tie for the general election.
"Incumbents don't like to debate their opponents because it helps raise the opponent up to their level. It gives credibility to the challenger," University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss said. "Obviously Grimes does not have a ton of experience dealing with policy details. A debate would be an opportunity to try to expose this. "
Voss said that while the debate challenge it is a strategic move by McConnell, it also is risky.
"You have a candidate known to be inexperienced whose expectations have been set very low, if she can come in and perform well, then that's going to be a big story," he said. "People will perceive him as having lost the debate."