UK students propose McConnell-Grimes debate

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Four University of Kentucky student organizations announced a statewide media partnership with WKYT and seven of other television stations in efforts to host a debate with Kentucky’s candidates for U.S. Senate.

The partnership will allow a debate hosted in the heart of the Commonwealth to air in nearly 100 percent of the state via eight TV regional stations.

The partnership complements a joint proposal submitted by Student Activities Board and UK Student Government to host a student-produced debate in September that would be hosted by the Federalist Society, the American Constitution Society, SAB and SGA. Proposals were submitted to incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell and Kentucky’s current Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes on May 9.

"The UK College of Law American Constitution Society Student Chapter would be honored to co-sponsor a debate between Senator McConnell and Secretary Grimes," Chris K. Stewart, ACS co-president, said. "Facilitating this important conversation only furthers our mission to promote the vitality of our nation's Constitution and the fundamental values it expresses. As Kentucky's flagship university, UK is the ideal setting for one of the biggest moments of this critically important Senate race."

"A college campus is an incubator for informed discourse on countless topics," UK President Eli Capilouto said. "We are a place where the free exchange of ideas should flourish. A shared dialogue where students, faculty and staff can discuss the questions of our day. I am proud of what these UK student leaders are doing to foster this quality learning environment, and I'm proud to support them in their endeavor to bring a senatorial debate to the UK campus."

The event, which would be held at the University of Kentucky, would educate Kentuckians on contemporary issues and each candidate’s platform while engaging young people in the election, which has earned considerable national attention.

While the two sides haven't agreed yet to a debate , two-thirds of those surveyed by a recent WKYT/Herald-Leader Bluegrass Poll said McConnell and Grimes owe it to Kentuckians to debate each other before November's election.

The Bluegrass Poll found the pendulum in the race for Kentucky's senate seat is swinging ever-so-slightly toward McConnell over his Democratic challenger. Results released Monday show the longtime Kentucky senator's re-election bid leading by two percentage points in both a head-to-head race with Grimes and a three-way race with Libertarian David Patterson.

“We are eager to hear Sen. McConnell and Secretary Grimes engage in an informative and constructive dialogue at the University of Kentucky,” said Jacob Ewing, SAB president. “Our university is representative of all 120 counties in our Commonwealth, and our partnership with WKYT will bring this debate to an even more diverse population of Kentuckians.”

In addition to WKYT-TV, the following stations would air the debate: WLKY-TV in Louisville; WLWT-TV in northern Kentucky; WYMT-TV in Hazard; WSAZ-TV in Charleston-Huntington, W. Va., covering eastern and northeastern Kentucky, including the city of Ashland; WBKO-TV in Bowling Green; WPSD-TV in Paducah; and WFIE-TV in Evansville, Ill., covering midwestern Kentucky, including the city of Owensboro.

"We’re pleased that television stations throughout the state are banding together to offer to air what we believe would be a debate of enormous importance to all citizens of the Commonwealth," Chris Mossman, general manager of WKYT, said. "We have eastern Kentucky covered with WYMT and WSAZ. Hearst’s WLWT, based in Cincinnati, is a market leader in northern Kentucky. CBS affiliates WLKY and WKYT are the most viewed stations in Louisville and Lexington respectively. Western Kentucky will be well served with WPSD in Paducah, WFIE in Evansville and Bowling Green’s WBKO ready to provide coverage."

The event would follow the Lincoln-Douglas debate style and would be held in UK’s Singletary Center for the Arts.

“We are excited for the possibility of hosting such an important civic engagement opportunity on campus,” said Jake Ingram, SGA president. “It is my hope that the candidates recognize what a unique opportunity it is for them to engage young voters from across the Commonwealth here at Kentucky's flagship, land-grant university."

"The Federalist Society is committed to fostering debate among competing legal philosophies in universities and the legal profession," Aubrey Vaughan, president of UK College of Law's Federalist Society, said. "Hosting Sen. McConnell and Secretary Grimes, both attorneys themselves, would highlight two contrasting legal views of how the government should best function to uphold the Constitution. This debate would be of great interest to all Kentuckians."

The official hashtag of the debate efforts at the University of Kentucky is #UKYSenDebate.

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