Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who faces a tight reelection battle against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, has been accused by the McGrath campagin of dodging debates moderated by women journalists, the Lexington Herald-Ledger reported on Monday.“McConnell is refusing a debate on KET, the statewide public affairs channel that would be moderated by a black woman, Renee Shaw. And it appears after accepting a debate hosted by TV stations owned by Gray TV, McConnell’s campaign worked to get a woman proposed to co-moderate the debate – WAVE3’s Shannon Cogan – removed,” the Kentucky Democratic Party said in a press release on Monday. “The debate is now moderated only by a man.”
This has been the pattern with McConnell for 25 years, the press release added.
“It’s no surprise that the same person who is blocking renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay for women in the workplace and so much other legislation that would help Kentucky women is refusing to appear in a debate moderated by a woman,” Kentucky Democratic Party spokesperson Marisa McNee said. “Mitch McConnell has been in the Senate for 35 years. It’s time for him to step into the modern world where women are equal, and, stop forcing last minute changes to avoid accountability.”
McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and moderate Democrat, hopes to unseat McConnell to become Kentucky’s first female US Senator.
“Amy is ready and willing to debate Mitch, but Mitch is afraid to take the stage unless he dictates every detail,” said Courtney Daniel, McGrath’s communications director. “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.”
In response to McConnell’s objections to female-moderated debates, the McGrath campaign said in Its own release on Monday that McGrath would also boycott the debate unless “the gender balance of the moderators is restored.”
McConnell has also backed out of a debate that included Libertarian candidate Brad Barron. Barron said Monday that excluding him from the debates, for which he was qualified and invited to attend, is a “form of voter suppression” andn “ridiculous.”
Barron echoed McGrath’s criticism of McConnell, saying that the Majority Leader is simply “trying to avoid debating me.”
McConnell’s campaign, meanwhile, dismissed the accusations and instead attacked McGrath.
McConnell “received an invitation, accepted it, and stands ready to debate on October 12,” his campaign spokeswoman Kate Cooksey responded on Monday.
“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,” Cooksey said. “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.”
Recent polling shows McConnell with a steady lead over McGrath.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.