Grimes accepts E. Ky. debate dates, but McConnell will be on bus tour

09/16/2014 05:38 PM

UPDATED: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has challenged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a debate in Eastern Kentucky, which McConnell cannot attend because he will be in the midst of a bus tour.

Grimes announced Tuesday she accepted Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 as possible dates for the debate, hosted by The Appalachian News-Express at the University of Pikeville. It would have been the second formal debate between the two candidates less than two months from Election Day.

McConnell, who is seeking a sixth term in office, and Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, are scheduled to appear Kentucky Educational Television’s “Kentucky Tonight” Oct. 13. The candidates also appeared at Kentucky Farm Bureau’s “Measure the Candidates” forum last month.

“Kentuckians deserve to have multiple opportunities to hear both candidates’ viewpoints and the real differences in their visions for the Commonwealth’s future,” Grimes’ campaign wrote in a news release announcing the debate days. “We remain hopeful that Mitch McConnell’s team will come back to the table to find dates that work for debate offers in West Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, Louisville and Lexington.”

McConnell had previously accepted debate invitations from WDRB-TV , but the June 21 date passed without a formal response from Grimes. The senator also accepted a debate hosted by WHAS-TV for Sept. 5 , but Grimes cited a scheduling conflict with an event at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore noted McConnell’s acceptance of seven debate opportunities “in the spirit of compromise” while Grimes agreed to two of those joint appearances — “Kentucky Tonight” and the Kentucky Farm Bureau forum. Grimes also proposed a debate in Beattyville, Ky., hosted by The Beattyville Enterprise.

“Although we greatly appreciate the efforts of Jeff Vanderbeck, who has been enormously generous with his time to work toward a debate in Pikeville, Senator McConnell will be in the middle of a bus tour during the dates suggested,” Moore said in a statement. “Ultimately, much like other debate negotiations, neither the timing nor the format could be agreed to by both campaigns. Senator McConnell is committed to discussing the issues of importance to Eastern Kentuckians like President Obama’s war on Kentucky coal, and will look for other opportunities to just that.”

Vanderbeck, publisher of The Appalachian News-Express, told WHAS-TV Tuesday , “Grimes basically accepted everything they had required. The parameters McConnell set out have been met.”

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton chastised McConnell for not accepting the opportunity to debate in Eastern Kentucky.

“Mitch McConnell had to invent a phantom bus tour to hide from the fact that he has done next to nothing to help create jobs in 30 years, while we’ve lost thousands of good-paying jobs,” Norton said in a statement. “Rather than accept multiple opportunities for Kentuckians to hear two very different visions for the future, McConnell is strangely comfortable hiding behind the dark money millionaires and billionaires trying to buy his way back to Washington.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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