Grimes 'hopeful' on debates, rejects most McConnell conditions


by Joe Arnold

Posted on June 5, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 5 at 1:26 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- In a response to a debate challenge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes on Thursday rejected most of McConnell's conditions, yet accepted a debate invitation from Kentucky Educational Televison and expressed hope that the two candidates can agree on a series of debates.

While McConnell stipulated three "Lincoln-Douglas" style debates with no audience and a moderator to act only as a timekeeper, Grimes is pushing for audience participation.

"I believe we should welcome as many Kentuckians as possible who want to see firsthand the real differences in our visions for the Commonwealth," Grimes wrote in the letter released to the media on Thursday morning. "Our debates also should not be 90-minute filibuster sessions; Kentuckians have had enough of that - they deserve the chance to participate and ask questions."

Though Grimes said she agrees with McConnell's condition of "no props" to be used in a debate, her letter does not address McConnell's insistence that the candidates not rely on any notes during the debate.

Grimes disagrees with McConnell's proposal that three debates all occur prior to Labor Day.

"While I agree that our debates should begin, I do not agree that none should take place in the fall," Grimes wrote.  "In the two months leading up to the election, there is no more important time for the people of Kentucky to understand what’s at stake."

McConnell accepted a June 21 debate invitation extended by WDRB-TV General Manager Bill Lamb which followed the conditions McConnell stipulated. 

Lamb is a conservative editorialist on WDRB in Louisville and has expressed support for McConnell.  Grimes indicated in the letter that any

"In order to maintain the integrity of these debates, it is important that none of the debate hosts or moderators has endorsed either candidate or served as a surrogate for either campaign," Grimes wrote.

At a news conference three days after the primary election, McConnell appeared firm on his conditions.

"I hope we'll have debates," McConnell said.  "And if we do, that is the way we will have them."

"I appreciate and recognize your role in all of this," McConnell said to reporters, "but I don't think we ought to have a joint press conference.  We ought to have a debate between the two of us - we each ask questions of the other, we have a reasonable amount of time to reply and then a rebuttal supervised by an objective sort of timekeeper.

Grimes called on McConnell to look at opportunities to hold additional debates in different regions of the Commonwealth.

"For instance, I have received an invitation from Edmund Shelby to participate in a debate in Beattyville, Kentucky," Grimes said.

Shelby is the reporter who stirred controversy in the campaign when his newspaper headlined a story about a McConnell speech in Lee County "McConnell says not his job to bring jobs."

McConnell later explained that he thought the question referred to job creation specifically in that community, which he said "is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.”

Grimes is also prodding McConnell to sign a "People's Pledge" to ask outside groups to cease spending in Kentucky's senate race.

On Wednesday, McConnell testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee against a Democratic amendment that would allow restraints on political spending by outside groups.