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The mud-spattered contest between Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment CNN's Cuomo promotes 'Dirty Donald' hashtag, hits GOP for 'loyalty oath' to Trump MORE (Ky.) and Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has become deeply personal after months of attacks in a race focused on character.

During the only debate of the Kentucky Senate race, McConnell painted his opponent as a novice who does not understand the nuances of policymaking, while Grimes characterized him as a self-dealing insider and obstructionist. 


Grimes accused McConnell of acquiring millions of dollars in wealth while in government service and profiting from the war on coal through his wife’s connection to Bloomberg Philanthropies.

“The only person Washington’s been benefiting is Sen. McConnell and the millionaires and billionaires that have bankrolled [him],” she said.

“He’s gotten rich while consistently voting to keep Kentucky poor,” she added.

McConnell called his opponent deceitful twice by noting that The Washington Post’s fact-checker had given her a “four Pinnocchios” rating while she repeatedly cut him off mid-answer.

“I can’t let that stand,” he fumed about his personal assets. “She knows that that’s the result of an inheritance my wife got, when her mother passed away.”

He said his opponent’s father, Jerry Lundergan, “made more money off the government in the last 10 years than I’ve been paid in a salary during all my time in the Senate.”

He also called Grimes’s claim that he profited from an anti-coal campaign “outrageous.”

McConnell dismissed Grimes's claim that he does not support the earned income tax credit by saying he didn’t “have any idea what she’s talking about” and questioning her grasp on the politics of passing a budget.

Grimes played up his ties to the wealthy industrialists Charles and David Koch, calling them the leader’s “henchmen” who have propped him up with “$50 million in negative, nasty ads.”

Jobs and the economy came up repeatedly throughout the debate as each candidate presented their vision for improving Kentuckians' standard of living.

Grimes said she would reach across the aisle and work with centrist Republicans to pass a jobs bill in a spirit of pragmatic problem solving that has become lost on McConnell after 30 years in the Senate. 

“That’s how you get things done, not just in Frankfort, but in Washington, and that’s what been missing,” she said, turning to look at McConnell seated next to her.

McConnell, as he has in races before, stressed what he would seniority would be able to deliver for Kentucky, especially if Republicans capture the Senate and elect him leader. 

“There’s a great likelihood that I will be the leader of the majority in the senate next year, and the majority leader gets to set the agenda, not only for the country, but to look after Kentucky’s interests,” he told moderator Bill Goodman, the host of "Kentucky Tonight."

The candidates clashed over coal, climate change, the Affordable Care Act, the minimum wage and partisan politics in Washington.

Grimes rebutted McConnell’s claim that she talked tough about the Democrats “war on coal” in public but didn’t challenge Democratic leaders. 

She insisted she confronted Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidNevada journalist: Harry Reid will play 'significant role' in Democratic primary The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (D-Nev.) during a Washington fundraiser.

"I did have very strong words for Sen. Reid regarding an energy-plus philosophy I believe he is misguided on as well, as the president," she said. "Coal keeps the lights on here in Kentucky."

McConnell, meanwhile, dodged a pointed question about whether he thought global warming was manmade and whether the United States should take the lead in international efforts to curb carbon emissions.

He cited conservative columnist George Will’s observation that scientists in the 1970s feared the planet was heading to another ice age.

Grimes returned repeatedly to the issue of raising the minimum wage, which McConnell said would wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs. She pointed to estimates that such an increase would raise a million people out of poverty.

“If you increase the minimum wage, you would actually help increase incomes for 30 percent of Kentuckians,” she said. 

Grimes said she wants to reform ObamaCare but warned it would be a mistake to repeal the law, which helped half a million Kentucky residents gain health insurance.

McConnell said he wouldn’t mind if the state healthcare insurance exchange, known as Kentucky Kynect, remained in place but reiterated his call for the full repeal of ObamaCare.

He called Obama’s signature domestic initiative a major policy blunder that would weaken Medicare.

“ObamaCare took $700 billion out of Medicare, a program for the elderly, used it as a piggybank,” he said, calling it a “subsidy for people who are not old and not poor.”