The League of Women Voters has canceled its debate between incumbent Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and his Democratic challenger, Lexington mayor Jim Gray, after Paul declined the invitation.
Paul’s campaign on Tuesday announced the two men would participate in a debate on Halloween night to be televised on KET.
“Dr. Paul has taken his message directly to the people in over 110 town halls across Kentucky, so he is happy to accept KET’s debate invitation and continue his efforts to present voters with a clear picture of a senator who believes in less spending, less taxes, and less debt,” said Paul spokeswoman, Kelsey Cooper.
The League of Women Voters event was planned for Oct. 30 at the University of Kentucky and scheduled to be broadcast live on WKYT-TV in Lexington, WLKY in Louisville, and on 89.3 WFPL.
In a statement, Terry Naydan, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, expressed disappointment that the organization had to cancel the debate.
“Research conducted on voter behavior and participation shows that not only does the public expect candidates to participate in voter education activities but it also found that voters are more likely to vote when they know who the candidates are and where they stand on issues,” Naydan said. “When candidates choose not to participate, it is a loss for the voters.”
Paul is at the end of his first six-year term in the U.S. Senate. He defeated then-attorney general Jack Conway in 2010. The two participated in five televised debates that year.
In a statement Tuesday, Gray spokeswoman Cathy Lindsey criticized Paul for declining the League of Women Voters debate, saying he had time to travel the country while running for president but couldn’t “spare an hour for the people of Kentucky.”
“That’s outrageous,” said Lindsey. “Kentuckians deserve to hear from both candidates what their plans are if elected. Rand Paul seems only interested in getting elected to higher office and elevating himself. Kentucky continues to be his last priority.”
This year, Paul and Gray were first invited to debate shortly after the primary elections, which took place on May 18. The candidates both attended a Kentucky Farm Bureau “measure the candidates” forum last month, but appeared separately, despite a long-standing tradition of a quasi-debate format.
Gray claimed that Paul insisted on meeting separately, but Paul denied it at a brief news conference following the event.
Paul suspended a campaign for president earlier this year.
This story has been updated.