Centre College cancels efforts to host Senate debate
A 2014 Kentucky U.S. Senate debate between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes will not take place at Centre College on Wednesday, September 3.
This decision comes after weeks of planning and numerous conversations with campaign officials following the July 17 announcement by AARP, WAVE3 News and Centre proposing a debate on the same stage as the 2000 and 2012 vice presidential debates.
Centre originally requested that the candidates respond to the invitation by August 1, but College officials discussed and met patiently with campaign representatives after that date in an effort to come to agreement over details regarding format and structure.
“My disappointment runs deep for the citizens of Kentucky, who deserve to make an informed decision on election day,” said John A. Roush, president of Centre College. “We had every indication early on that agreement could be reached, but as time wore on, compromise on the part of both campaigns simply didn’t occur.”
Having overseen the two general election debates at Centre and organized a third at the University of Richmond in 1992, Roush speaks from a deep well of experience. In fact, the 1992 debate was one of the rare three-candidate events, which provided even greater challenges.
“Campaigns have differences and the stakes in any race are high,” Roush observed. “However, at the end of the day, I am more inclined to believe that there was really no willingness on the part of either campaign to come to agreement,” Roush concluded.
The final attempt to receive a “yes” or “no” took the form of an open letter by Roush on Wednesday, August 20 to “Fellow Kentuckians,” asking for support via social media.
In his letter, Roush expressed an interest in putting “in place a format for a civilized, meaningful discussion between the candidates to learn more about them and their aspirations for serving the Commonwealth and to get past the carefully rehearsed, contrived, and sometimes mean-spirited advertising that increasingly characterizes political campaigns these days.”
While this did prompt a few last-minute conversations over the weekend with campaign officials, none were substantive enough to prevent cancellation.
by Michael Strysick