McConnell agrees to WHAS11 debate, Grimes cites conflict


by Joe Arnold

Posted on August 26, 2014 at 10:52 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 26 at 10:53 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes said Tuesday that a scheduling conflict would prevent her from agreeing to a September 5 debate at WHAS-TV. 

The campaign of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had accepted WHAS-TV's debate compromise proposal one day earlier, explaining that September 5, one of the dates proposed by the television station, is "the only date we have available."

The U.S. Senate goes back into session the following week and for most of September.

Read here for the letter from the McConnell campaign.  Click here for a letter from the Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign in response to McConnell agreeing to the WHAS11 debate.
The McConnell campaign scoffed at an allegation by Jonathan Hurst, Grimes' Campaign Manager, that McConnell's team had intentionally chosen a date that conflicted with her schedule.

"On the sole date accepted by the McConnell campaign, Secretary Grimes has a longstanding commitment to visit her alma mater," Hurst said in a letter to WHAS11. "By accepting a date that McConnell's campaign knows does not work for Alison, it is clear they are back to their old tricks."

"We've heard a lot of excuses about why Secretary Grimes cannot show up to a debate," said Josh Holmes, a senior adviser to the McConnell campaign.  "For the third time a mysterious scheduling conflict has appeared as the reason she can't share her support for the Obama agenda with Kentucky voters." 

Hurst said Grimes plans to attend an event at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.  Grimes graduated from the school in 2001.

Last week, both McConnell and Grimes participated in an agricultural issues forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau.  Both candidates have agreed to an October 13 debate on Kentucky Educational Television's Kentucky Tonight program.

In June, a debate proposed by WDRB-TV in Louisville was cancelled after only McConnell agreed to participate.  McConnell has also participated without Grimes in forums organized by a group of evangelical ministers. 

Grimes has agreed to a debate proposed by The Beattyville Enterprise and another in Pikeville.  McConnell has not agreed to those debates.

By agreeing to the WHAS-TV debate proposal, McConnell is compromising on two key conditions he originally stipulated in May when he challenged Grimes to a series of debates. 

McConnell wanted Lincoln-Douglas style debates with no questions from the media or the public and no in studio audience.

WHAS11's debate proposal includes no studio audience, but WHAS11 will provide a satellite feed to any television or radio station, to ensure as wide an audience as possible.

The debate would include questions split evenly from three sources: from each candidate to the other, video questions submitted by Kentucky voters and by WHAS11 Political Editor Joe Arnold, who would serve as the sole timekeeper and moderator of the debate. 

Both campaigns indicated a willingness to agree to those terms.

"After reviewing the WHAS proposal, Senator McConnell believes that your offer provides an excellent opportunity for voters to evaluate the candidates," wrote McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton.

"It is our hope that the two campaigns can settle on a mutually agreed upon debate date to take place after the Senator returns from Washington," Hurst wrote.  "We look forward to a healthy debate at WHAS-TV on negotiated terms that work for both candidates."