Grimes responds to McConnell's debate invitation with criteria of her own

06/05/2014 10:36 AM

UPDATED WITH MCCONNELL CAMPAIGN RESPONSE— The slow motion debate over the framework for debates in the U.S. Senate race took an incremental step Thursday as Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes responded to Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell with her own ideas about how the debates should be held.

Grimes sent a letter to McConnell Thursday congratulating him on his victory in the Republican primary last month and said she was ready to debate.

“The people of Kentucky deserve no less,” Grimes wrote in the letter. “I was happy to read that you agree with me, and am hopeful that we can agree to a series of debates.”

The response comes two weeks after the McConnell extended the invitation to debate .

In his request on May 21 — the day after the primary elections — McConnell proposed that the two candidates debate three times before Labor Day and that the debates be conducted in the freewheeling Lincoln-Douglas style with no audience and only one moderator.

Grimes said in her letter that she disagrees with that format and believes that the voters should be able to attend and see the differences between the two candidates in person.

“Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seats do not belong to any one politician but to the people of the Commonwealth. As such, 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 to McConnell. “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.”

Grimes also disagreed with the timeline of the debates set forth by McConnell, saying voters needed to hear from them closer to the time of the election in November. McConnell’s request to have no props used in the debates was the one point that Grimes agreed with.

As for who would moderate the debates, the McConnell campaign has already accepted an invitation from WDRB in Louisville to host the debates.

Grimes, on the other hand, stated in the letter that she has accepted the invitation of KET to host a debate but added she believes the debates should take place in different parts of the state.

The letter is the first time the candidates or campaigns have corresponded since it was reported the campaign managers for each candidate were trying to set up a meeting to discuss details.

In reply to the letter from Grimes, the McConnell campaign criticized the timeline of two weeks for a response that does not explicitly accept or decline the June 21st debate McConnell has already accepted.

“Senator McConnell’s offer was an attempt to have serious exchanges that are free from distraction for Kentucky voters to evaluate their candidates, but we probably should have known Alison Lundergan Grimes would turn it into a political game,” McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. “We’re happy to have further discussions with the Grimes campaign but it’s clear that this is devolving into a juvenile exchange of press releases rather than the serious presentation of the candidates’ views that Kentuckians deserve.”

A full copy of the letter from Grimes is below:

Dear Senator McConnell:


Congratulations on your victory in the Republican Senate primary. The November General Election is about the people of Kentucky, and as I’ve stated previously, I believe we should have a series of open debates to ensure that Kentuckians have a full opportunity to hear our viewpoints and understand the real differences in our visions for the future of this state. The people of Kentucky deserve no less.


I was happy to read that you agree with me, and am hopeful that we can agree to a series of debates. However, there are a few criteria for these debates where we disagree. You mentioned that you do not want an audience at the debates. I believe, however, that Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seats do not belong to any one politician but to the people of the Commonwealth. As such, I believe we should welcome as many Kentuckians as possible who want to see firsthand the real differences in our visions for the Commonwealth. 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.

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. In addition, I agree that props must not be allowed.

You have also stated that all debates should take place before Labor Day. While I agree that our debates should begin, I do not agree that none should take place in the fall. 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.

With these criteria in mind, I have accepted the KET debate invitation – an invitation you have accepted in previous campaigns – and hope you will join me. We should also 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.

It is my hope that this U.S. Senate race will be respectful and uncluttered, so I further call on you to sign a “People’s Pledge” to ask all outside groups to cease spending in the Commonwealth and allow the campaigns to deliver their messages to Kentuckians unvarnished. I would, of course, take similar action.

My campaign stands ready to debate, and I look forward to the opportunity.

I understand our campaign managers, Jonathan Hurst and Jesse Benton, have traded voicemails regarding these invitations. It is my hope that they connect as soon as possible so that our campaigns can work through the details and agree to a debate schedule that works for the people of Kentucky.

Sincerely,
Alison Lundergan Grimes

Jacqueline Pitts

Jacqueline Pitts joined the cn|2 political team in June 2012. A graduate of WKU, Jacqueline grew up in Nashville, TN and is looking forward to having a front row seat to Kentucky politics. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or jacqueline.pitts@twcnews.com.

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