LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – With absentee ballots starting to arrive in mailboxes and election day five weeks away, incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, sparred Monday over upcoming debates.
McConnell started the exchange, sending a press release from “Team Mitch” accusing McGrath of potentially backing out of a debate in October.
“It has come to our attention that the McGrath campaign is reconsidering its acceptance of the UK/Gray TV debate scheduled for October 12. This would be an unfortunate development for Kentucky voters as it is the final opportunity to see the U.S. Senate candidates debate,” said McConnell campaign manager Kevin Golden regarding McGrath’s attendance at the ‘Kentucky Debate,’ hosted by Gray Television and the University of Kentucky. “Senator McConnell was pleased to accept the Farm Bureau forum in August and the UK/Gray debate in October and hoped sincerely Amy McGrath would join him. We urge the McGrath campaign to reconsider backing out of this debate and accept the invitation.”
But McGrath countered that McConnell’s refusal to take part in an event with a female moderator is the key issue.
“Sen. Mitch McConnell has not participated in a debate in Kentucky where the candidates took questions from a female moderator in nearly 25 years, and he continues to resist allowing women to host debates,” her campaign said in response.
“An initial debate proposal to the Amy McGrath for Senate campaign and McConnell’s campaign for the Oct. 12 Gray TV debate included a female moderator. However, after the station negotiated with the McConnell campaign, the female moderator was dropped from the proposal.
“Amy is ready and willing to debate Mitch, but Mitch is afraid to take the stage unless he dictates every detail,” said McGrath communications director Courtney Daniel. “We want to have a debate that includes representation that reflects our electorate, and we won’t let him railroad us on that. Amy is a mom, a trailblazer for women in the military and the future first woman senator from Kentucky. She will always fight to include concerns of women and families in the Senate,” McGrath’s campaign continued.
McGrath challenged McConnell to three debates in August, including the KET Kentucky Tonight Forum on Oct. 26. KET announced it would be extending invitations to the qualifying candidates: McGrath, McConnell and Barron. McConnell has not accepted the invitation to that debate, which is hosted by Renee Shaw.
“Amy looks forward to participating in the Gray TV debate when the gender balance of the moderators is restored,” her campaign said.
McConnell’s camp says that’s all a stretch.
“After spending two months attempting to add another man to the debate stage Amy McGrath absurdly suggests gender discrimination by UK and Gray TV as the primary reason she can’t appear,” McConnell campaign spokesperson Kate Cooksey said. “The reality is that Team Mitch received an invitation, accepted it, and stands ready to debate on October 12. We sincerely hope Amy McGrath finds a reason to accept the debate rather than an evolving grab bag of laughably ridiculous excuses why she cannot.”