Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could face a challenge from none other than actress and humanitarian Ashley Judd when he runs for re-election in 2014.
Shortly after November's election, there were rumblings about Judd, a native of Kentucky, possibly throwing her hat in the 2014 ring. Now, according to Politico, Judd is taking the first steps to "seriously explore" the possibility of running for McConnell's seat.
Judd has chatted with New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand for advice, spoken with a pollster and begun conducting opposition research to feel out her vulnerabilities, Politico reports. She is also reportedly considering waiting until 2016 to run against junior Sen. Rand Paul.
“She is doing all the things that a serious candidate exploring a race should do,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) told POLITICO after speaking with her. “I think there are a lot of people, and I was one of them, who wanted to let her know that her candidacy would be an exciting prospect for us. That’s what I wanted her to know. A lot of the labor unions, they were telling me that too."
McConnell is certain to be a difficult opponent to any Democrat who enters the race. Since he narrowly defeated incumbent Walter Huddleston in 1984, McConnell has won all his reelection bids by comfortable margins of no less than four points.
“It’s going to sting,” Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, told Politico. “We’re going to make sure that you don’t come out with your nose clean. We’re going to drive your negatives up and very aggressively and publicly litigate your record before the citizens of Kentucky.”
Judd was a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama's reelection bid, going so far as to film a spot explaining her support for his campaign. She is an eighth-generation Kentuckian (although she has lived in Tennessee on an historic farm for nearly two decades), and addressed rumors that she would run in the days after the election.
"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," she said in a statement November 9.
Although Judd is best known for her roles in Double Jeopardy and Kiss The Girls, she has dedicated significant time to working as a global ambassador for YouthAIDS and as a member of the leadership council for the International Center for Reasearch on Women. She's also involved in a number of other organizations including Women for Women International, Equality Now and Defenders of Wildlife.