Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has accepted an invitation to debate Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes next month in Kentucky’s closely watched U.S. Senate race.
McConnell’s re-election team agreed to appear on KET’s Kentucky Tonight program on October 13, according to a statement released Monday by the television network.
“KET is proud to be trusted by the candidates and Kentucky’s voters to provide a fair and independent platform in this pivotal U.S. Senate race,” KET chief executive Shae Hopkins said.
Grimes accepted the KET proposal two months ago and urged the GOP leader to do the same.
The two camps had been at a relative standstill over debates despite more than a dozen offers from media outlets and civic groups to serve as hosts. In last month’s Bluegrass Poll, 66 percent of Kentucky voters said Grimes and McConnell had an obligation to square off ahead of this year’s election.
Grimes and McConnell are set to appear together at a forum this Wednesday hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau, but that event is not set up as a traditional debate.
A McConnell campaign spokeswoman said the senator agreed to the KET proposal in order to give voters a break from the “endless” campaign ads.
“Senator McConnell feels very strongly that Kentuckians have the opportunity to evaluate both candidates as they discuss the issues face-to-face rather than an endless stream of television commercials and this debate provides that opportunity,” campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a released statement. “There is a large contrast between Senator McConnell’s Kentucky leadership and Secretary Grimes’ support for the Obama agenda and we’re eager to have that discussion with Kentucky voters.”
The KET debate format appears to favor most of the guidelines Grimes had sought.
Earlier this year, McConnell wanted a series of debates to take place before Labor Day. The GOP leader also stipulated one else besides Grimes and McConnell could ask questions, and he sought for the debates to be held without an audience.
KET doesn’t allow audiences for its debate, but it will be moderated by host Bill Goodman, who will ask questions. Viewers will also be allowed to call in with their questions.
A spokeswoman for Grimes’ campaign chided McConnell for not agreeing to the debate earlier.
“After months of dragging his feet, our campaign is encouraged that Mitch McConnell finally agrees that Kentuckians deserve the opportunity to hear both candidates’ viewpoints and very different visions for the Commonwealth’s future,” spokeswoman Charly Norton said in a released statement. “For 30 years, McConnell has sold Kentucky families out and sided with Washington special interests. It is time for Mitch McConnell to answer for his failed Washington record— 30 years is long enough.”
This story has been updated.