Reversing Earlier Criticism, House Speaker Greg Stumbo Calls Ashley Judd a 'Formidable' Candidate

House Speaker Greg Stumbo appears to be opening up to the prospects of an Ashley Judd Senate run.
Credit Kentukcy LRC

After dismissing the idea last fall, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is warming to the idea of actress Ashley Judd running for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Judd has begun reaching out to Kentucky Democratic leaders; Stumbo said on Thursday that he'll tell Judd that, should she enter, the race is winnable.

"Ashley Judd, if she chooses to get into this race, will be a formidable candidate by the time the race is over I'm convinced of that," Stumbo said.

Stumbo, a Pikeville Democrat, is closely associated with Kentucky's coal country.

In November, Stumbo told Kentucky Public Radio that he believed Judd's outspoken opposition to mountaintop removal mining would dissuade Democrats like him from supporting her candidacy.  

“I don’t think she runs at all and given her position on mining, it would probably be a race that Democrats like myself would have trouble supporting her,“ Stumbo said in November.

Judd and Stumbo have not yet talked, he said.

But, speaking to reporters Thursday, Stumbo said he still wishes Judd would modify her stances on the mining practice.

But he also said that  he doesn't believe Judd's views would hurt House candidates running in rural districts—a frequently raised concern about her possible candidacy. And he launched into a tirade against U.S. McConnell for gridlock what he believes are misguided priorities in Washington, D.C.

"When I talk to (Judd), I'm going to encourage her as I would any other candidate that this is a winnable race—this guy is vulnerable," Stumbo said.  And not only the race winnable and is he vulnerable but America needs for him to go. Kentucky needs for him to go."

Judd has reached out to Stumbo to talk about 2014, but has not yet been able to have that conversation the speaker says. She also reached out to Gov. Steve Beshear and House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark for meetings on the race.

But many state Democrats—including most state senators—are still lukewarm to her candidacy.

Some Republicans are clearly concerned about a potential Judd candidacy. The actress has come under fire in an attack ad paid for by a conservative PAC.