Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd Ready to Help Grimes Win U.S. Senate Seat

Jul 3, 2013

Actress Ashley Judd says she's "ready to fight" beside Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state who announced Monday that she would challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell next year.

Monday's announcement by the 34-year-old Grimes came under criticism by several observers who described the event as disorganized and uninspiring.

Judd, who had considered the race herself, showed her support for Grimes in a tweet Tuesday.

Judd wrote, "Even in thick woods outstanding news filters through. Thrilled for the people of KY & ready to fight beside"

Judd, a former Kentucky resident now living in Tennessee, announced in March that she wouldn't run against the five-term Kentucky Republican. When Judd decided against a bid, Democratic leaders turned to Grimes as their candidate of choice.

The campaign manager for Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell says the FBI spent about an hour in the Senator’s Louisville office Wednesday, investigating a secret recording made of McConnell and staffers.

Audio from a re-election strategy meeting was published by the liberal news magazine Mother Jones.

The Herald-Leader reports campaign manager Jesse Benton says staffers have given pertinent information to the FBI, which has asked the campaign not to discuss details of its investigation. Benton told the paper that he thought the FBI had several leads in the case, and that he hoped whoever was responsible for making the recording would be prosecuted.

Kentucky allows individuals to record conversations to which they are a party without informing the other parties that they are doing so.

McConnell said the recording was an example of “Nixonian” tactics on the left, and that those behind the secret recording used “Watergate style tactics.”

Mother Jones says it received the recording from someone who requested anonymity. Mother Jones  published audio excerpts from the McConnell meeting, in which the Kentucky Republican is heard comparing the early stages of the Senate campaign to a game of “whac-a-mole”.

A staffer also discussed strategies the McConnell campaign would use against actress Ashley Judd, who was considering a challenge to McConnell, but who has since said she won’t run. In the recording, the staffer says the campaign would use Judd’s admissions of depression and suicidal thoughts against her, and would also make issue of Judd’s attitudes towards what the staffer called “traditional Christianity.”

Mitch McConnell’s campaign is asking the FBI to look into an audio recording of a staff meeting that was leaked to Mother Jones magazine. In the recording, Senator McConnell is heard saying that the campaign will aggressively attack any opponents and “do them out.”

The U.S. Senate Minority Leader also compared the early stages of the Senate campaign to a game of “Whac-A-Mole”, a game where participants strike an animated mole when it pops its head out of a hole.

Staffers also discuss at length the mental history of Ashley Judd, the Kentucky-born actress who was considering a Senate run against McConnell, but has since announced she will not run. A staffer is heard detailing Judd’s past admissions concerning episodes of depression and suicidal thoughts, calling Judd “emotionally unbalanced.”

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told the Courier-Journal that the recording amounted to “Watergate-style tactics” and that the campaign would allow the FBI to investigate the matter and not comment any further.

The Kentucky Democratic Party is trying to use Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election bid as a catalyst to raise money even before a serious challenger gets into the race.

In a series of emails bashing McConnell, Gov. Steve Beshear and other party leaders have been calling for financial donations to end the Republican floor leader's three-decade Senate career.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon said the results of the effort have been "awesome," though he declined to say how much has been raised.

A Politico profile of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign describes the effort as using a "scorched earth" policy against any potential challengers.

McConnell has already aired $200,000 in TV and radio ads and has approached state Republican lawmakers in the state in an effort to "lock down" support in his party. The U.S. Senate Minority Leader could potentially face a primary challenge from the right, in addition to a potentially well-funded Democratic opponent in the general election.

With actress Ashley Judd announcing this week that she will not challenge McConnell, many political observers will now renew their focus on the possible Senate candidacy of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Actress Ashley Judd announced on Twitter Wednesday that she will not run for U.S. Senate in 2014. She had been rumored to be considering a run against Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.

In a series of posts, the Kentucky native and current Tennessee resident said "After serious and thorough contemplation, I realize that my responsibilities & energy at this time need to be focused on my family. Regretfully, I am currently unable to consider a campaign for the Senate."

"I have spoken to so many Kentuckians over these last few months who expressed their desire for a fighter for the people & new leader. While that won't be me at this time, I will continue to work... as hard as I can to ensure the needs of Kentucky families are met by returning this Senate seat to whom it rightfully belongs: the people & their needs, dreams, and great potential. Thanks for even considering me as that person & know how much I love our Commonwealth."

It's likely that with Judd's announcement there will be increased attention on Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a potential Senate challenger many establishment Democrats favored over Judd in the first place.

Kentuckians have 590 days-plus before the 2014 general election, but already the political chatter is centered on potential challengers to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell—chiefly actress Ashley Judd and her potential candidacy's supposed strengths and weaknesses.

But Judd isn't the only possible candidate. Many veteran Kentucky political operatives—not to mention rural Democrats—are pushing a prospective Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes candidacy over Judd's. And some Tea Party groups are pushing Louisville businessman Matthew Bevin as a possible challenger to McConnell in the Republican primary.

With so many stories, quotes and talk flying around on these three candidates, here's a look at the positives and negatives that each could bring to the table in 2014. The list is by no means exhaustive, but's a reflection of what's being said publicly and privately in Kentucky and national political circles.

Ashley Judd


*     Near universal name recognition. Supporters point out that Judd's work as an actress, plus as a prominent University of Kentucky basketball fan, gives her the best name ID of any candidate rumored in the race. And they point out that good name ID leaves more money to use on things other than introductory ads.

Kentucky LRC

High-ranking members of the Democratic Party—including a former President—are reportedly trying to convince a new candidate to challenge Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell next year. Some Democrats are concerned about the potential candidacy of actress Ashley Judd, who has been the subject of intense media speculation lately.

According to a report in Politico, some prominent Democrats are trying to convince Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to launch a Senate campaign. The 34-year-old Grimes comes from a family with deep connections to Kentucky Democratic Party politics.

The online political journal says former President Bill Clinton met with Grimes for 35 minutes in Owensboro earlier this month, when Clinton was in town for a fundraiser benefitting the Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center. Grimes has also reportedly met with officials from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Talk of Tennessee resident Ashley Judd running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky has turned up ambiguity in residency requirements that a state legislative leader says needs to be cleared up.

The U.S. Constitution requires only that Senate candidates be residents of the state they would represent "when elected." But Kentucky election law raises questions about whether candidates can have their names placed on ballots if they're not registered to vote in Kentucky. And only legal residents can be registered to vote.

Kentucky state Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer said Tuesday the issue has never before been raised here. Thayer said the Legislature may have to address the ambiguity.

Judd, an actress who lives outside Nashville, is considering a run against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky next year.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) isn't ready to throw its weight behind a possible Kentucky Senate run by actress Ashley Judd. Politico reports the group's executive director, Guy Cecil, called Judd just one in a "handful of quality candidates in Kentucky" who could take on U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Cecil, in a conference call with reporters Monday, refused to deny a separate report in the Louisville Eccentric Observer that said the DSCC is reevaluating Judd, while giving a second look at another possible Democratic Senate challenger: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Citing a poll that shows 55 percent of Kentuckians view McConnell unfavorably, Cecil described the Louisville Republican as "one of the most unpopular senators in the country."

Meanwhile, The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman has reported Judd has told advisors that she plans to announce her Senate candidacy around the time of the Kentucky Derby, which is May 4.

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.

Most Kentucky State Democratic Senators Lukewarm on Ashley Judd Candidacy

Feb 27, 2013

Kentucky state Senate Democrats are largely lukewarm about the potential for actress and activist Ashley Judd entering the 2014 race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Judd's recent activity indicates a real possibility that she'll enter the 2014 race. She has met with Democratic senators,  may soon speak with Gov. Steve Beshear and recently addressed on Twitter the controversial statements made by a liberal Super Pac regarding McConnell's wife.

Most state senators represent multiple counties and act as de facto party chairs for their districts—so their opinion will matter. With this in mind, we asked those 14 Democratic state senators whether they thought Judd was a viable  U.S. Senate candidate.

Taken as a whole, Democratic state senators were unenthusiastic about the idea of a Judd candidacy.

But not all. Walter Blevins (Morehead), Kathy Stein (Lexington) and Gerald Neal (Louisville) expressed direct support for a Judd candidacy.

Ashley Judd—the actress and potential Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate—will meet soon to with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss the 2014 election, Beshear said on Thursday.

Judd has been meeting with potential donors and supporters in the past several weeks, including some in Louisville, the Hill reports.

The Kentucky native has been flirting with a U.S. Senate run for a few months.  Beshear and Judd previously spoke at the Bluegrass Ball during the presidential inauguration, the governor said.

"She's been trying to arrange and will be arranging more conversations here in the next month or so," said Beshear, a Democrat.

Will she or won't she?

For Kentucky political junkies, that's the big question surrounding a potential Ashley Judd challenge to Kentucky's senior U.S. Senator, Mitch McConnell. Judd says she's considering what would be her first ever run at elected office, and that alone has been enough for a Republican PAC to target her with an attack ad.

The New York Times has this look at how some Democrats in Kentucky are viewing a potential Judd Senate candidacy, with some believing the actress has the star-power to challenge McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, but others saying she could be a liability to the party should she enter the race.

The lone Democratic member of Kentucky's Congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, is taking Judd very seriously.

“I would actually be surprised if she didn’t run right now,” Rep. Yarmuth told the New York Times. “She’s done everything a serious candidate would do.”

Actress Ashley Judd has made no decision about running for U.S. Senate, but the Kentucky native is already the subject of an attack ad. The online video was posted by the conservative super PAC American Crossroads.

The ad mocks Judd’s past comments about her commitment to President Obama, in which she calls him “brilliant” and says she “will go wherever the president wants me to go.” The ad also borrows a quote from Judd's grandmother who called her a “Hollywood liberal.” 

The ad posted on YouTube goes on to show a clip of a speech the actress made in which she called Tennessee home. Judd grew up in Kentucky and went to college at U-K, although she has lived in Tennessee for several years. She was a Tennessee delegate to the Democratic National Convention last year.