Clout Or A Fresh Start? Senate Debate Centers On What Kentuckians Want More

Oct 12, 2020

In their one and likely only debate before the November election, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath each made the case that they can deliver for Kentucky.

Credit AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/Bryan Woolston

The long-serving Republican majority leader spent much of the evening warning that a McGrath victory would transfer Kentucky's outsized political influence to New York's Chuck Schumer, while the Democrat pointed to political gridlock in Congress as evidence McConnell's clout isn't producing results for Kentucky or the country.

McGrath said the holdup on further federal COVID-19 relief is the latest example.

"Sen. McConnell built a Senate that is so dysfunctional and so partisan that even in the middle of a national crisis, he can't get it done," she charged.

McConnell, meanwhile, painted the  as the fault of Democrats seeking to rob the administration of an election-year win.

"When you have divided government, you actually have to reach an agreement," the GOP heavyweight said. "And the speaker has beeen totally unreasonable and not interested in getting an outcome as we've tried and tried and tried."

The opponents also sparred over the Breonna Taylor case, abortion, election integrity, and the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. With confirmation hearings beginning for nominee Amy Coney Barrett just weeks out from the election, McGrath said her opponent is making the rules as he goes along.

"Four years ago, Sen. McConnell said - by the McConnell rule - during an election year, we don't vote on a nominee. Let the people decide. Well, right now, with 22 days until an election, we shuld let the people decide," she argued, referencing the senator's refusal to hold hearings for Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

McConnell seized on McGrath and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden's vague answers about plans to shift the balance of power on the high court.

"They want to stack the Supreme Court," the Republican declared. "In other words, add numbers so that they can get an outcome they like... In short, there's not a dime's worth of difference between my opponent and all of the national Democrats."

In the hour-long one-on-one sponsored by the University of Kentucky and Gray TV, the candidates avoided the interruptions fiery exchanges that characterized both the 6th District and presidential debates.