Kentucky voters have seen Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, face off via television ads, campaign rhetoric and aggressive performances at the state's colorful annual Fancy Farm event. This fall, they will get to see the candidates spar face to face, The Lexington Herald-Leader has confirmed.
The Oct. 13 debate will be held on the Kentucky Educational Television network's "Kentucky Tonight" program. Grimes had accepted KET's invitation in June, but McConnell's campaign signed off only recently, according to the Herald-Leader.
Because there will be no live audience, the format will meet one condition that McConnell had laid out for debates in the Kentucky Senate race, according to the Courier-Journal in Louisville. But McConnell had also asked that any debates be held before Labor Day -- months before the election -- and feature no questions from outside sources.
The Courier-Journal reported that McConnell adviser Josh Holmes called the KET format "almost identical" to what the incumbent had asked for.
"It was our hope to agree to a series of debates but as months went by without an agreement, Sen. McConnell wanted to guarantee Kentuckians at least one opportunity to watch their candidates discuss the issues face to face," Holmes said.
Charly Norton, a spokeswoman for the Grimes campaign, said in a statement that McConnell had agreed to the debate "after months of dragging his feet."
McConnell had accepted an invitation to debate on Louisville's WDRB TV in June -- but that plan fell through, possibly because Grimes' campaign had specified that the debate should have impartial moderation. WDRB's president is an avowed McConnell supporter who had endorsed the five-term incumbent on the air.
Though the candidates have yet to clash in person, their campaigns have run numerous attack ads. Grimes' most recent spot, launched in Kentucky on Thursday, is considered one of her most aggressive yet. It notes that McConnell has become a multimillionaire while in public office -- largely through an inheritance from his father-in-law -- while voting against policies such as raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits.
Both campaigns have been criticized for distorting the truth in their ads: The Courier-Journal reported over the weekend that no independently fact-checked ad in the race has received a score of more than half-true.
HuffPost Pollster, which combines all publicly available polling data, has McConnell leading Grimes by 2.4 percentage points: