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Raju writes: "If Judd does become a candidate, she would be the biggest celebrity to run for the Senate since Al Franken's successful 2008 bid for the Minnesota seat."

Ashley Judd is considering running for the Senate in 2014. (photo: unknown)
Ashley Judd is considering running for the Senate in 2014. (photo: unknown)


Ashley Judd v. Mitch McConnell in 2014?

By Manu Raju, Politico

13 December 12

 

shley Judd vs. Mitch McConnell?

It might not be as far-fetched as you think.

The Hollywood movie star and eighth-generation Kentuckian is seriously exploring a 2014 run for the Senate to take on the powerful Republican leader, four people familiar with the matter tell POLITICO. In recent weeks, Judd has spoken with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) about the possibility of a run, has discussed a potential bid with a Democratic pollster and has begun to conduct opposition research on herself to see where she's most vulnerable in the Bluegrass State, sources say.

Whether Judd jumps into the race remains far from certain. She's reportedly also weighing whether to wait until 2016 to instead take on freshman Sen. Rand Paul, sources say.

But if Judd does become a candidate, she would be the biggest celebrity to run for the Senate since Al Franken's successful 2008 bid for the Minnesota seat. And her entrance would add a level of star power to a race that was already poised to be the highest-profile in the country with the Senate Republican leader up for a sixth term in 2014.

"She is doing all the things that a serious candidate exploring a race should do," Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) told POLITICO after speaking with her. "I think there are a lot of people, and I was one of them, who wanted to let her know that her candidacy would be an exciting prospect for us. That's what I wanted her to know. A lot of the labor unions, they were telling me that too."

A Judd spokeswoman declined to comment beyond an earlier statement when the actress said she was "very honored" by the consideration, but didn't shut the door on a run.

Democrats privately acknowledge that recruiting isn't easy against McConnell, as the state's strongest Democrats may instead run for governor in 2015 rather than face the GOP leader's machine in a bare-knuckle Senate bid.

That's why some Democrats are calling on Judd to run - she could raise a ton of cash, energize the base and would have significant name recognition in the state. Yet other Democrats are nervous about her prospective candidacy: She'd be pegged as a liberal, out of touch with conservative Kentucky; she has no experience running for office; and she now lives outside her home state.

In addition to Judd, a wide range of Democratic names have been floated, such as Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Obama fundraiser Matthew Barzun, both of whom are noncommittal about the race.

McConnell's campaign is already talking about how it's prepared to tear apart any Democrat who joins the fray.

"It's going to sting," Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager, warned to any candidates considering a run. "We're going to make sure that you don't come out with your nose clean. We're going to drive your negatives up and very aggressively and publicly litigate your record before the citizens of Kentucky."

"This is not a free run to prime yourself for future office in '15," said Benton, who declined to comment on Judd specifically.

It's far from clear how an untested Judd would fare against the hardball tactics of McConnell when it comes down to the daily grind of a real campaign. She now lives on a farm in rural Tennessee and in Scotland, the native home of her husband, auto racer Dario Franchitti, a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion.

While most voters know Judd from the 20 films she's starred in, she has grown more active in liberal social causes in recent years, such as the AIDS epidemic, abortion rights and environmental matters.

On the latter issue, Judd has emerged as a high-profile critic of the controversial practice known as mountaintop removal mining, in which companies use explosives to blow off the tops of mountains for easier access to coal seams. The practice is common throughout Appalachia, particularly in Eastern Kentucky, where Judd's family stretches back at least eight generations. In an emotional speech to the National Press Club in 2010, she referred to the practice as a coal industry "rape" of Appalachia and "a stain on the conscience of America."

That may play well with the Democratic base and environmentalists, but some Kentuckians are already convinced that President Barack Obama has engaged in a "war on coal," an industry with a strong presence in the state.

This is one of the reasons other Democrats have mixed feelings about the prospects of her candidacy, on top of being a first-time candidate against a savvy campaign tactician like McConnell.

"She's got tremendous name recognition, and she's going to be able to raise the funds she'd need to run against somebody like Sen. McConnell," said Dan Logsdon, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party. "But she also has got some issues with regard to certain stances she's taken regarding coal that the Republicans will certainly try to exploit. Her answer to that, I think, would be frankly that she was talking about coal company practices, not necessarily coal or coal miners.

"But that's a tough issue to finesse in Kentucky," Logsdon said.

Logsdon has not yet spoken to Judd, though he heard she was "seriously" considering a bid.

Yarmuth, the congressman from the Louisville-area, has spoken with Judd, and he's also concluded she's "serious" about a bid after she's begun to reach out to prospective supporters, fundraisers and conduct opposition research on herself.

While Yarmuth acknowledged that her position on mountaintop mining would be a "problem in some ways" and generate "emotional opposition," he said it "would also generate some very positive support," saying it would be a net-plus.

"All I know is she clearly is excited at the prospect of doing it," he said, calling her "very, very knowledgeable on public policy issues."

Democratic women's groups also seem excited about the possibility of a Judd Senate run. Judd worked with the liberal group EMILY's List during this past election cycle, penning a fundraising solicitation calling on supporters to help women candidates who support abortion rights. And at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, she sat on a panel with Gillibrand and EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock, where the actress even spoke about her ambitions for elective office.

"I do receive a lot of encouragement to run," Judd said at the event hosted by EMILY's List and Marie Claire magazine. "And my deepest desire is to be useful. I want to help serve my fellow [citizens]. And I may be doing that to the best of my capacity … in the space I'm already operating in. Or it may be time to look at possibly running for office."

And that's a scenario she appears to be exploring.

Gillibrand spoke with Judd soon after the elections, according to Yarmuth and another person familiar with the matter. The New York Democrat's office declined to comment. Judd also spoke with a New York-based Democratic pollster, Jefrey Pollock. He declined to comment about their discussion.

The 44-year-old Judd attended the University of Kentucky and is often seen attending Wildcat basketball games - another contrast from the 70-year-old McConnell, who is a die-hard University of Louisville fan. She also recently completed a master's degree at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

If she gets into the race, her celebrity status is sure to bring national media attention and outside money to the race, regardless of whether she actually has a chance to win.

"She grew up in Kentucky, she went to the University of Kentucky, she is generally considered to be one of the UK's biggest fans, she shows up at all the games," Yarmuth said when asked about the political problems caused by her living outside the state. "She's so closely identified with Kentucky that I don't think that would be an issue."

 

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+37 # MainStreetMentor 2012-12-13 16:49
If Ashley Judd elects to run against Senator McConnell, I'll go on record right now as saying she will be successful in her efforts - as long as there is no "dirty playing" from her opposition. The entire Judd Family have been rock-solid United States Citizens FOREVER! She's well versed in the political arena and has always stood for the rights of her peers. You've got my support, Ms. Judd!!
 
 
+16 # Ralph Averill 2012-12-14 04:19
You can count on "dirty playing" by the most powerful Republican in the US Senate protecting his seat. Count on it. There is nothing that is beneath these people. If Ms. Judd has any skeletons, or even anything that looks like a skeleton in her closet, she needs to get it out first, on her terms. She can't let Republican thugs get a hold of it first. That goes for her husband as well. Mr. Franchitti could find that the Indy 500 is a Sunday drive compared to a no-holds-barred Senate race against Mitch McConnell.
 
 
+23 # ghostperson 2012-12-13 23:29
Let's look at this: a mean, old, wizened white, male whose agenda has nothing for ordinary people, only for rich folk, is going to "tear apart" and bring out all the negatives of an intellectually- gifted, visually hypnotizing home girl, who is a fixture at local sporting events, who can summon the sirens of country music, her mom and sister, to every campaign event; who can call upon Hollywood money, and when things get slow, movie icon and fan favorite: Morgan Freeman, and if he is busy: Matthew McConnahey [sp], and if he is unavailable, the human hunk: Hugh Jackman, while her car racer husband commands the attention of Nascar nuts statewide. And she is supposed to be afraid?

But the bottom line is that the current occupant is a relic of the past, an extremist who is as out-of-touch as Mitt Romney and whose political style is that of a do nothing obstructionist.

What has he got that anyone wants? He is what we are sick of. People want fresh, new blood, people who are not so jaded or welded to ideology that they can only produce paralysis.

Judd should just make up a list of points or accusation about herself, whether they are true or not, and make them so bad that nothing the wizened old fart & company says could be worse, and get mud slinging done with up front.

She would get white young male votes, a majority of white female votes, Morgan can bring his friend (and hunk) Samuel Jackson to sew up the Black vote. Delicious.
 
 
+7 # Texas Aggie 2012-12-14 08:21
And then there is the age factor. McConnell quite likely won't survive another six years given that he is well past eighty. Put him in a hard driving campaign and he might not survive til the election.
 
 
+5 # ghostperson 2012-12-14 13:49
Forgot to say that Latinos adore her because among other things she is best buds with the fabulous Salma Hayak. Check out the movie they did together.

Latino vote, except right wing Cubans, is locked up. Hell, even some of those will go for the gorgeous gals. Both are smart as hell, focused, fun, well-rounded, creative women.

Judd should be afraid? Come out the stone age.

Sticks and stones. Sticks and stone. By the time, the meteoric wow factor is pulled out with no stops, no one will even remember the wizened old fart's name. I am his age.

It's time to pass the baton to people who can still think and reason.
 
 
+2 # Joe Bob 2012-12-16 20:57
Oh Goodie, I like it.... and election that would put an end to that puffy faced old bastard (Aunt Blabby as per angelfish). Republicans, wave bye bye to you tattered party.
 
 
+18 # angelfish 2012-12-14 04:16
Old "Aunt Blabby" is LONG over due for Retirement and Ashley Judd is just what Kentucky needs as their Senatorial contribution to Washington. My Mother and ALL her people were born in Kentucky and my Grandfather, uneducated though he was, was smart enough to gather his wife and children and BAIL in order to give them any semblance of a life! God Bless their memory and may Kentucky bloom again once the old, racist, misogynistic, self-serving Cretins like McConnell get the Boot! GO Ashley!
 
 
+10 # Texas Aggie 2012-12-14 08:17
It may be that she can transform the "war on coal" to a war on coal companies.

Mountain top removal puts lots of miners out of work and destroys bystanders' lives and homes. Forcing the coal companies to clean up their act would be a winning hand with average people.
 
 
+10 # conniejo 2012-12-14 10:45
Elizabeth Warren had no prior political experience, and look what she was able to do. If Ashley Judd runs, she will receive support from Progressives in every state of the union. If she remains honest and open, and trusts her own judgment about clearly telling people the truth, rather than listening to political pundits who will advise her to run her campaign differently, I believe she can win. People are yearning for trustworthy politicians. Clearly being one of those is a winning strataegy.
 
 
+5 # M. de la Souche 2012-12-14 12:10
//We're going to drive your negatives up and very aggressively and publicly litigate your record before the citizens of Kentucky."//

You've got to love that. Not, "We're going to run a spirited campaign based on the issues that are important to the citizens of Kentucky," but rather, "We're going to drag you through the mud."

Pretty much sums up the spirit of American politics. Disappointing and not a little shameful.
 
 
+6 # Charles3000 2012-12-14 14:23
This is the BEST news I have heard in a very long time! Go get 'em. Ashley! We are with you.
 
 
0 # Sophia 2012-12-29 00:14
Ashley you go girl ! You run I will support you and the progressive women of America will too.
 

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