Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday challenged his Democratic rival Allison Lundergan Grimes in the high-profile Kentucky Senate race to join him in three “traditional Lincoln-Douglas” style debates, saying it will give voters to get a clear view of their thinking before the airwaves are blanketed with campaign ads.
Mr. McConnell, who is seeking a sixth term, said that the debate format, which would include a single moderator, would provide a platform for the two candidates to present their views ” fairly and without interpretation by traditional media filters.”
“By conducting these debates without an audience, without props, and without notes, it will allow for an unvarnished exchange of views for Kentuckians to evaluate,” Mr. McConnell said in a letter to Mrs. Grimes.
The Grimes camp countered by calling on Mr. McConnell to “quit playing games” and to agree to limit the influence of deep-pocketed outside groups, which are expected to spend boatloads of money on the race.
“This campaign is about two very distinct visions for Kentucky’s future: one puts forward bold ideas to put Kentuckians back to work, while the other does not believe it is his responsibility to bring jobs to the Commonwealth,” said Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst. “What Kentuckians don’t need are gimmicks and games. If Mitch McConnell truly wants this campaign to be a healthy debate about issues between the candidates, we should also agree to keep outside organizations from flooding Kentucky airwaves with special interest money.”
Mr. McConnell was renominated Tuesday after easily defeating his tea party-aligned challenger Matt Bevin.
The 72-year-old is running neck-and-neck with Mrs. Grimes, the 35-year-old who won her party’s nomination on Tuesday, in the early polling and his approval rating is underwater with voters.
In the letter, Mr. McConnell said the first of the debates could take place before July 4, the second before the Aug. 2 “Fancy Farm” picnic and the third before Labor Day.
“Kentucky voters will get their fill of campaign ads and scripted events this year but three Lincoln-Douglas style debates will provide an excellent format to evaluate our true views on the issues,” Mr. McConnell said. “I look forward to hearing from you on this invitation.”