Entries in Ashley Judd (7)


FBI Visits McConnell Headquarters in Ashley Judd Tape Investigation

Office of Sen. Mitch McConnell(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Federal investigators visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s campaign headquarters in Louisville on Wednesday, and campaign staffers handed over information pertinent to the investigation of a leaked tape that revealed the campaign’s strategy against potential challenger Ashley Judd, a source connected to the McConnell campaign tells ABC News.

The visit is a sign that the leak is being considered seriously by the FBI, which was alerted to the incident Tuesday. McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that liberal forces in Kentucky bugged his campaign headquarters and leaked a tape of a strategy session to Mother Jones magazine.

In a radio interview, campaign manager Jesse Benton told Mike Huckabee that FBI agents were at headquarters for about an hour.

“They tell us that they’re running down some leads,” Benton said. “For various reasons they need to be very cautious about what they share with me and then what I’m allowed to share on the public side. I can’t comment any further, but this is an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The McConnell campaign is committed to making sure “this is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” according to Benton, who was among the aides in the room for the session that was captured on tape.

The tape revealed the McConnell campaign’s plan to attack Judd as “emotionally unbalanced,” and to focus on her religious beliefs. Judd last month announced that she would not seek the Democratic Senate nomination, after several months of publicly flirting with a run.

In the aftermath of the tape’s release, McConnell has attacked the political left for what he called “Nixonian tactics” of bugging his campaign headquarters, though it’s still not clear who made the tape and who distributed it. The campaign is already fundraising off of the controversy.

Also on Wednesday, Benton claimed Mother Jones mistakenly transcribed the speaker at the beginning of the presentation. He said the line, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through” should instead read, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, in their free time, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through.”

“Jesse” may refer to Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, but the word “LA” probably refers to legislative aides or legislative assistants, people who work in McConnell’s senate office.

The distinction is important, because the line Mother Jones reported raised the question of whether McConnell’s aides violated campaign law.

ABC News reporters listened to the recording several times but could not make a definitive judgment on what was said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ashley Judd Won’t Run for Senate in Kentucky

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After months of flirtation, actress Ashley Judd announced on Wednesday that she will not pursue a Senate bid against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

She made the announcement in a series of tweets late Wednesday afternoon:

    “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. Thank you!”

An ABC News source familiar with Judd’s decision-making process said the news that Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes has also been considering a Senate run “gave her the space to really make a decision and decide what was best for her.”

The source said Judd has known she was not running for “the past few days” but only decided to make her decision public on Wednesday.

As late as last Friday, Judd was still hinting at a run, referring to her potential run against McConnell and foreshadowing what she presumed would be a barrage of attack ads from his campaign. She told a conference audience in Cincinnati that she used to be averse to hearing criticism, which she said was ironic because she was “about to get $40 million worth of it.”

In the same speech, she also joked that her mother, country star Naomi Judd, couldn’t wait to turn her garage into campaign headquarters.

Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., who was one of Judd’s most vocal boosters, issued a statement on Wednesday through his spokesman.

“Congressman Yarmuth has said all along he would be surprised if Ashley Judd did not make this race and he’s certainly surprised and while he’s disappointed because he believed Ashley Judd would be a strong candidate against Sen. McConnell, he’s confident that a strong candidate will emerge to take on Sen. McConnell who is the least popular senator in the country,” Yarmuth spokesman Stephen George said in a statement to ABC News.

George added that Judd and Yarmuth spoke earlier this week during which she did “express some reservations about the race,” but he added they had been speaking throughout the process and that was not unusual.”

Judd’s interest in the race spurred widespread national attention, including from former President Bill Clinton, who spoke to both Judd and Grimes about the seat, encouraging them both to take a hard look at the race.

ABC News reported last week that Clinton encouraged Judd to enter the race and promised he would help her, according to several Kentucky political sources. That conversation happened sometime between the November election and President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Earlier this month Clinton also met with Grimes after he spoke at an event for former Kentucky Sen. Wendell Ford in Owensboro, Ky., according to multiple political sources in the state. Clinton encouraged Grimes to consider taking on McConnell, adding as he did with Judd that he would support her.

Even with the Hollywood actress’s star power, a campaign against McConnell, a political institution in Kentucky, would have been an uphill battle. Shortly after Judd’s announcement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington circulated a list of ten Kentucky Democrats who have all passed on a chance to take on McConnell, including the state’s Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

“The hollow DSCC spin that Kentucky will be competitive still hasn’t made its way to the Bluegrass State,” NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring said in a statement. Citing the list of ten Democratic names, Dayspring added, “Perhaps number eleven might be a lucky charm?”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ashley Judd Considering Senate Run in Kentucky

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images(CINCINNATI) -- Ashley Judd made a rare reference to her possible political aspirations on Friday.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Judd spoke about her future while giving the keynote address at the American Counseling Association’s 2013 conference at the Duke Energy Center in Cincinnati, which borders Kentucky.

Judd also tweeted about her speech, saying, “Heartfelt thanks to American Counseling Assoc for having me as your Keynote Speaker today. Thank you for your dedication to hope & healing.”

Judd has only rarely spoken publicly of her political aspirations, but is reportedly considering entering the Democratic primary to take on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY-R), according to Kentucky political sources.

The ACA posted photos of Judd addressing the crowd, wearing a patterned dress and posing with a T-shirt that read, “Keep Calm and Call a Counselor,” a take-off on the famous British phrase from World War II, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

The group also posted a Facebook message calling Judd’s speech “truly inspirational,” adding that she expressed “gratitude for the unique role that counselors play in shaping important life decisions for recovery.”

ABC News learned on Friday that former President Bill Clinton has reached out to Judd, encouraging her to enter the race and promising support.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ashley Judd to Announce Senate Run this Spring?

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actress and activist Ashley Judd is reportedly going to announce her much-rumored candidacy for the U.S. Senate this spring.

The Huffington Post reports the 44-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native told a friend that she intends to announce her run for the Democratic nomination for the 2014 race "around Derby," which would be in early May when the Kentucky Derby brings the spotlight to Louisville and her native Bluegrass State.

However, Judd didn't sound like she was in campaign mode when she told The Huffington Post on Saturday, "I am not sure who is saying this stuff, but it is not I!  I'd prefer as a fan of your journalism that you stay accurate and credible.  We told everyone who called us yesterday these stories are fabrications."

The seat Judd may or may not seek is currently held by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  ABC News Political Director Rick Klein comments that Judd would have to be considered "an underdog as any Democrat would be against Mitch McConnell, particularly someone with a record that she has of public statements.  It's gonna be hard to overcome."

If Judd does decide to run, she must establish a new residence in Kentucky by November 2013, because Kentucky law mandates that candidates be residents of the state for a year before Election Day.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Republicans Attack Ashley Judd

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans are going on the offense against actress Ashley Judd.

Judd, a Democrat, may or may not challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the nation’s second-most-powerful Republican, for his Kentucky Senate seat in 2014, and the GOP has gone out of its way to make even the notion of such ambitions seem ludicrous.

On Friday the National Republican Senatorial Committee cheekily announced Judd as the Republican Party’s own top Senate recruit, sending reporters a fake fundraising email:

Dear Friends,

Ashley Judd needs your help.

Despite the fact that she lives in Tennessee, Judd desperately wants to run for Senate in neighboring Kentucky.

I know what you’re thinking: how can a person who has said “Tennessee is home,” that San Francisco is “my American home” and that she “winters in Scotland” run for Senate in Kentucky?

Well, that’s where you come in.

Zing! As political propaganda goes, it’s not the worst.

A string of recent comments, made by Kentucky politicos, suggests Judd will go through with it. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) told ABC News last month that he “would be surprised if she doesn’t run at this point.” Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, said at a press conference on Tuesday that the actress is “seriously considering a race for the United States Senate and the Democratic primary” and would be an “effective and formidable opponent” against McConnell.  

Republicans acting as if they’re happy about Judd running could mean one of two things:

1.) They’re completely scared that they will have to spend extra money on a race that could force one of their top leaders into an uncomfortably competitive race against a well-funded challenger; or

2.) They actually are happy she’s thinking about running and plan on raking in tons of national money to oppose this famous person from unseating the architect of the Republican Party’s opposition to President Obama during the first few years of his White House tenure.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ashley Judd ‘Seriously Considering’ Senate Bid

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actress Ashley Judd is “seriously considering” running for Senate, according to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

Beshear, a Democrat, spoke with Judd on the phone last week about her potential Senate bid which would pit her against Republican rival and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I talked to her again the other day, she called me and we had a good conversation,” Beshear said at a press conference with local reporters on Tuesday.

Though the governor did not go into specifics about their chat, he did say that Judd is “seriously considering a race for the United States Senate and the Democratic primary.”  Beshear told local reporters that the actress would be an “effective and formidable opponent” against McConnell in a general election.

Beshear is not the only Kentuckian convinced that Judd might take a stab at politics.  Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, a big supporter of Judd, told ABC News, “I would be surprised if she doesn’t run at this point.”

“My impression is this is something she wants to do, and she is now taking the time to make the contacts she needs to make throughout the state to try and generate commitments of support and in some cases fundraising,” Yarmuth said.  “She is certainly acting like a candidate, a potential candidate."

Though Judd has neither confirmed nor denied a run in the 2014 Senate cycle, the actress has already received criticism from Republican opponents.  Just last month, she was the subject of an attack video posted online by a conservative super PAC, American Crossroads, who called her an “Obama-following, radical Hollywood liberal.”

The Hollywood starlet has captured the attention of young Kentuckians but it seems as if now McConnell is trying to do the same. On Wednesday, his campaign team released a “Harlem Shake” video on YouTube. Though McConnell does not appear in the video himself, a giant McConnell head is dancing aside a slew of patriotically dressed Harlem Shakers at Churchill Downs, the thoroughbred racetrack known as the Home of the Kentucky Derby.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Will Ashley Judd Challenge Mitch McConnell for Senate?

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actress Ashley Judd is making moves to take on GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

She hasn't announced it yet, but her biggest supporter in Kentucky, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, tells ABC News, "I would be surprised if she doesn't run at this point."

"My impression is this is something she wants to do, and she is now taking the time to make the contacts she needs to make throughout the state to try and generate commitments of support and in some cases fundraising," Yarmuth says.  "She is certainly acting like a candidate, a potential candidate."

"I think in her own mind ... she has made a decision to run and she's doing the right thing and not ruffling any feathers along the way," he adds.

Yarmuth, the only Kentucky Democrat in Congress, says he expects the decision to come soon.

The race will be one of the most watched in the country, with outside money pouring into the state.

Yarmuth notes, "It would be a great economic stimulus.  It would be Christmas for six months or more," especially for local television stations that would run political commercials.

"I think the contrast would be so marked and I think it will be someone with a vision for the future and someone so stuck in a rut in the past that he no longer represents the future of the commonwealth," he says.

One thing that's guaranteed is it will be a brutal race -- a 30-year veteran of Washington against a Hollywood star active in liberal Democratic politics from a legendary family.  Judd's mother is the country singer Naomi Judd and her half-sister is the singer Wynonna Judd.

Yarmuth says Ashley Judd is ready and has even done opposition research on herself to see areas McConnell will try to "exploit."

"I think she has no illusions about what Mitch McConnell will do and the fact that his entire career he has demonized opponents and never talks about himself," Yarmuth says.  "In her world she is used to dealing with a lot of nonsense so I think she will deal with it very well."

And it's already started.  McConnell released a Web video called "Obama's Kentucky Candidate," which shows the president trying to find a candidate to take on McConnell.  It goes after Judd and other Kentucky Democrats who may get into the race.  

The video focuses on an issue that is clear to become one in the race: that Judd lives in Tennessee and not in Kentucky.  In it, Judd calls both Tennessee and San Francisco "home."

Judd's family does go back eight generations in the state, though, and she is from Ashland in eastern Kentucky.

Yarmuth says the residency issue would not be a "particularly effective" one because "her roots are so firmly established growing up here."

"Everyone knows that Kentucky is her first love," he says.  

Yarmuth calls the carpetbagger attacks a "waste of time" and hopes McConnell "keeps making them."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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