Ashley Judd Senate Run In Kentucky Against Mitch McConnell Still Undecided, Actress Says State Needs A ‘Fighter’ For The People

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Jan 22, 2013 12:07 PM EST
Ashley Judd and Scottish racecar driver Dario Franchitti
Ashley Judd and Scottish racecar driver Dario Franchitti arrive at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 23, 2012. (Photo : Reuters) "

Ashley Judd, the Hollywood actress and most notable Kentucky Wildcats fan in the country, is "taking a close look" at a possible Senate bid in her home state of Kentucky.

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Judd has been rumored to be interested in running for office for months, but has not directly commented on the race for a while until recently.

"The people of Kentucky need a fighter," Judd said Saturday, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. "And certainly going back 10 generations, I've got some fighters from those hills in my family."

Judd spent the weekend in Washington for the inauguration of President Obama and was also honored at the Kentucky Society's Bluegrass Ball on Saturday for her humanitarian work. The actress has worked for political organizations and has been involved in philanthropic endeavors, but this would be her first run for office.

The Senate seat Judd would likely go for is against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has been in office since 1985, which is the longest in state history. He has been the top Republican in the Senate since 2007 and will be up for reelection in 2014, which would be the opening for Judd. McConnell is staunchly Republican and is opposed to anything President Obama does.

Judd later commented to the Courier-Journal that she is "overwhelmed" that Kentucky residents are interested in seeing her run, and that it is the "the greatest honor of my life so far." She also said, however, that she had "no time frame" for making her decision.

The news first came about last year when rumors about Judd meeting with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky) about running. It also was reported that she consulted with Democratic pollsters and started opposition research, according to "four people familiar with the matter."

Judd released a statement last month addressing the rumors at the time, saying:

"I cherish Kentucky, heart and soul, and while I'm very honored by the consideration, we have just finished an election, so let's focus on coming together to keep moving America's families, and especially our kids, forward," Judd said, according to the Huffington Post.

Judd's mother, Naomi Judd spoke in an interview with Ora TV and said that he daughter was still unsure about making the bid for a Senate seat.

"OK, here's the deal. As of right now, she doesn't know," Judd's mom, a country singer, told Larry King in a web interview published on Ora TV Monday. "I can tell you she's very interested in changing the world. And she knows that politics unfortunately right now is one of the ways she could do that. But I made her promise that if she should make a decision, that I'm the first to know."

Judd is a political activist who works with many different causes and supported President Barack Obama over the past two presidential elections. McConnell is a stalwart in Kentucky politics, but has been one of the biggest impediments to progress in the U.S. Congress in recent years.

In an internal poll by Republican firm Voter/Consumer Research, Judd trailed McConnell by four points. The details were not released to the public, but a memo of the results was provided to news organizations like Politico and The Washington Post.

Weeks ago another poll was taken by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had the same results. When that poll was released, McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton mocked it, saying: "It speaks volumes that even a liberal Democrat pollster with an agenda to make Mitch McConnell look bad still can't find an opponent who can lead him in Kentucky."

Judd is the most prominent Kentucky Wildcats fan in the nation.

Judd can frequently be seen in the stands at games and participated in the celebration of Kentucky's 1998 national championship and cheered on the team when they defeated Kansas last season to win their first title under coach John Calipari.

Originally born in California, Judd grew up in Ashland and attended the University of Kentucky, where she received a degree in French. She also did graduate work at the Harvard where she received a Mid-Career Master in Public Administration degree in 2010.

Judd has deep roots in Kentucky and can date back her family eight generations in the state. She has starred in numbers projects on film and television in her career, including "Kiss the Girls," "Double Jeopardy," "High Crimes" and the television series "Missing."

She is married to IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti, who has won the Indianapolis 500 three times

Judd has been involved in political activities and humanitarian work for many years, including being a global ambassador for YouthAIDS and traveling around the world to help children in countries in Africa

She also supported President Barack Obama for re-election and has been involved in work with numerous women's rights groups, including the Women for Women International, and Equality Now.

"I'm voting for Barack Obama because he embodies American values and because he has a policy and vision that actually works for regenerating our middle class and growing it from the middle class out instead of from the top down and proposing the same failed policies that got us into economic collapse in the first place," Judd said in an interview with the Daily Beast before the election.

According to USA Today, Judd "was a Tennessee delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. She even announced the state's votes for President Obama in Charlotte as the president was formally nominated as the party's standard bearer."

Judd's options for Congress would be to run against Mitch McConnell, who is one of 13 Republicans up for re-election in 2014, or wait until 2016 to take on Rand Paul, who is the freshman Senator for the state.

If Judd did run, it would be a huge boost for Democrats that are looking to get McConnell out of the Senate. As the minority leader, McConnell has held up nearly every bill and issue the Democrats have tried to pass and has been a barrier for President Obama's most important pieces of legislation.

Some politicians have already started to weigh in on the idea, although Judd has made nothing official yet.

"She's way damn too liberal for our country, for our state," Sen. Rand Paul said to the radio station WMAL. "She hates our biggest industry, which is coal. I say, good luck bringing the 'I hate coal' message to Kentucky."

Democrats have been weary to challenge McConnell in recent years because he is very popular in the state. He is Kentucky's longest-serving senator and won re-election in 2008 for a fifth term in Congress.

While Judd currently lives in Tennessee, she would likely move back to Kentucky to re-establish residence if she wants to run for the Senate seat. She also resides part of the year in Scotland.

"I heard she lives in Scotland, I thought she was running for Parliament," Paul said. "I think she'd fit right in the English parliament. ... She's got to get back and forth between Scotland to campaign, and they don't have the Concorde anymore."

If Judd did decide to throw her hat in the race, it would not be the first time someone from Hollywood tried to get into politics. Former SNL writer Al Franken was elected to the Senate in Minnesota in the 2008 election after defeating incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman.

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