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Debate set in McConnell-McGrath Senate race in Kentucky

Both Democrat Amy McGrath and Republican Mitch McConnell have agreed to debate one another in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.
Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 5:26 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - Kentucky voters will get a chance to compare Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in the give-and-take of a televised debate.

After considerable wrangling by the campaigns, McGrath on Friday accepted an invitation to participate in an Oct. 12 debate on WKYT and Gray Television’s other Kentucky-based stations.

The debate also organized by the University of Kentucky Student Government, will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 12.

“The television reach for this debate is wide and UK’s involvement will help address a range of topics,” said longtime WKYT anchor and political editor Bill Bryant who will moderate the debate.

McConnell, the Senate majority leader, had accepted the offer for “The Kentucky Debate” weeks ago.

The debate will come one day before early in-person voting starts. Absentee ballots have started going out to voters as the state offers more options to cast ballots because of the coronavirus.

For the past two months, the two campaigns wrangled over debates.

McConnell first challenged McGrath to a Lincoln-Douglas style debate, which is type of one-on-one debate with only a moderator for time keeping purposes.  McGrath challenged McConnell to three debates that would also include Libertarian candidate Brad Barron.

Under rules established for “The Kentucky Debate,” only candidates polling at 10 percent or more in independent polls are extended invitations.

While McConnell agreed to participate in Gray Television’s original offer for “The Kentucky Debate,” McGrath did not.  Instead, McGrath accepted invitations from three other debates which McConnell hadn’t agreed to attend.

One of the invitations McGrath accepted was from UK Student Government which combined its debate effort with Gray Television’s hoping the two candidates' previous commitments would bring them to a unified debate stage.

While accepting the latest invitation to “The Kentucky Debate,” McGrath’s campaign questioned the decision to go from a male and female moderator team to a solo male moderator.

“McConnell will not concede to debating with a female moderator or to including libertarian candidate Brad Barron, who by standard measures qualifies to participate,” McGrath said in a statement accepting invitation to debate October 12. “Still, Kentuckians deserve a debate in this critical race, so they can make a more informed decision when casting their ballots, and that outweighs my hope that we could hold a more open, inclusive forum.”

The debate could likely be the top two candidates' only face-to-face meeting.  While McConnell agreed to the October 12 debate, he has not accepted an invitation to a Kentucky Educational Television debate moderated by Renee Shaw.

“I am calling on Mitch McConnell to participate in the KET debate as well,” McGrath said. “There is no reason why he should not agree to a debate moderated by a woman, and Kentuckians deserve to have every opportunity to see all of the candidates debate before the election.”

Recent independent polls show the Senate majority leader ahead of his Democratic challenger.

“We are pleased Amy McGrath has decided to join Senator McConnell on the debate stage, and we are looking forward to a spirited conversation,” said Kate Cooksey, press secretary for McConnell’s campaign.

In addition to WKYT in Lexington and WAVE in Louisville, Gray Television owns WYMT in Hazard, WBKO in Bowling Green, KFVS in Cape Girardeau/Paducah, WXIX in Cincinnati, WFIE in Evansville, WSAZ in Charleston/Huntington and WVLT in Knoxville offering the ability to share this live debate with the widest possible audience of Kentucky viewers.

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