Entries in Kentucky Senate Race (4)


Pressure Mounts on Potential Kentucky Senate Candidate

Kentucky Secretary of State's Office(WASHINGTON) -- Make up your mind. That’s the message an influential Kentucky congressman is sending to a fellow Bluegrass State Democrat who has spent months contemplating whether to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell but has yet to announce her intentions.

Three-term Rep. John Yarmuth, the state’s only Democratic congressman, had some blunt advice for the potential Senate contender, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday.

“It’s very important to do it now,” Yarmuth said, adding that he and other prominent Democrats have been reaching out to Grimes but not getting much of a response. He called her failure to return calls “extremely unusual.”

“She’s keeping her own counsel on this, and I guess that is fine, but there are others waiting in the wings,” Yarmuth said, noting that Democrats want to “avoid an expensive primary.”

Despite the pressure, an adviser to Grimes said she would not be rushed into making “a snap decision.”

“She’s certainly closer to making a decision than she has been because she has been talking to a lot of people and assessing what this opportunity means,” the adviser told ABC News. “I would think in the not-too-distant future you will hear an answer from her,” noting an announcement was likely to come within a month.

Grimes’ spokeswoman, Lynn Zellen, said in a an e-mail message to ABC News last week that “Secretary Grimes is continuing to talk with her supporters across Kentucky and giving it the due diligence it deserves.”

And not all Democrats agree with Yarmuth’s assessment.

“There is no mounting pressure in terms of the timeline. The examples are numerous of candidates getting in much, much later and being successful,” one Democratic strategist said. “Resources do become an issue, however a Democratic candidate will have no problem raising money at the prospect of defeating Mitch McConnell.”

Kentucky’s Senate contest is hardly the only 2014 race that is not yet fully formed. Even so, waiting much longer, Yarmuth warned, would take up valuable “time another candidate would want to take advantage of.” Meanwhile, McConnell has been busy fattening his campaign war chest and producing positive ads, which are running online and on television.

Grimes’ indecisiveness recently led National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee strategist Brad Dayspring to label her “the reluctant candidate.”

Earlier this year, Democrats seemed to be hanging their hopes of defeating McConnell on actress Ashley Judd, but Judd announced in late March that she would not run.

From Louisville to Washington, D.C., McConnell’s opponents have placed an enormous target on his back. And Yarmuth, who vocally promoted Judd’s potential candidacy, isn’t the only Democrat nudging Grimes in the direction of running. The group Emily’s List appeared to all but endorse the not-yet-declared Grimes on Tuesday.

“Allison Grimes is an impressive candidate who would bring a refreshing perspective to end the Mitch McConnell era of gridlock and partisan politics in Washington,” spokeswoman Marcy Stech said in a statement. “We are excited about her potential run and an opportunity to send McConnell packing.”

Also on Tuesday, the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC was touting the results of a survey it sponsored, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showing a tight head-to-head matchup between Grimes and McConnell.

Former Miss America Heather French Henry, wife of former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, has also said she is “seriously considering” entering the race and Yarmuth said she plans to announce a decision this week whether Grimes does or not. Other possible candidates include Bill Garmer, an attorney and former state Democratic Party Chairman, and Tom Fitzgerald, an environmental attorney.

Should Grimes decide to run, Yarmuth said “she won’t have a more enthusiastic supporter” than he, but in the interview, he was also candid about the challenges Grimes would face.

“She’s a very good retail politician — she proved that. She has a statewide organization, a network of supporters — that’s very important. She has great contacts with her father and the Clintons. That’s very, very important,” the third district congressman said. “But the downside is she’s young, she really doesn’t have much of a record and she’s going to have to get up to speed on federal issues pretty quickly.”

Yarmuth’s bottom line: time is of the essence.

“There aren’t many Ashley Judds out there who can jump in the race in January and have enough name recognition and access to resources that they can run a successful campaign,” he 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


Senate Hopeful Jack Conway Condemns Rand Paul 'Thug'

Photo Courtesy - Conway for Senate(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Jack Conway, the Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky, condemned the men caught stomping on the head of a liberal activist at a Democratic rally in Louisville.

The encounter, between supporters of Conway’s opponent, Republican Rand Paul, and the MoveOn activist, who was dressed as a Paul supporter, was captured on video outside a debate this week in Lexington and went viral on the Internet.

On Wednesday night, Conway criticized the apology offered by Paul’s camp.

“Rand Paul and his campaign have given a half-hearted sort-of apology," Conway said.  "That’s what they’ve done.  And that thug, his Bourbon County chairman, who stomped on this woman’s head, you know what he said this morning?  He said he stomped because he had a bad back and couldn’t reach down.  That’s what he said!”

Conway also tried to push the incident as a women’s issue.

“If you’re a woman in the commonwealth, you have a clear choice," Conway said.  "Let me step back here for a second.  I saw the video of what happened outside of our debate Monday night, and I was horrified.”

“Never -– I don’t care if you’re in politics, I don’t care what you’re in -- but never is it appropriate for a man to drag a woman to the ground and use physical violence against her, ever,” he said.

Later, Conway told reporters that Paul needs to give back a reported $1,950 donation from Tim Proffit, the man who admitted to stomping on the woman’s head.  The Louisville Courier-Journal is reporting that Paul is reneging on a promise to return the money.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio