FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Actress Ashley Judd isn’t ruling out a run for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.
Democrats have been promoting Judd, a former Kentuckian now living in Tennessee, as a challenger to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014.
In a statement Friday, Judd, a Democratic political activist, sidestepped the question of whether she would re-establish a residence in Kentucky and run against McConnell.
“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.
Judd, a regular at University of Kentucky basketball games and the Kentucky Derby, has starred in such movies as “Kiss the Girls,” ”Double Jeopardy,” ”Where the Heart Is,” and “High Crimes.” She is married to three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti and is an annual spectator at the race.
So far, no Democrats have stepped forward to challenge McConnell, a political powerhouse in his home state who already has $6.8 million in the bank for his re-election campaign.
Even so, the Louisville Republican is certain to be targeted again by Democrats, just as he was in 2008 when he won re-election to a fifth term and gained the distinction of being Kentucky’s longest serving senator. McConnell spent some $20 million on his last election, beating Democrat Bruce Lunsford, a wealthy Kentucky businessman, by 6 percentage points.
The McConnell campaign was complimentary of Judd on Friday, but critical of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville who was the first to publicly tout Judd as a candidate.
“Sen. McConnell and his wife are big fans of Ashley Judd’s movies and appreciate her energy, especially when it comes to bringing young people into the political process,” said McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton.
“Most of this speculation is being stirred up by John Yarmuth, who appears to have an unhealthy obsession with Sen. McConnell that may impress the Obama crowd in D.C., but sure doesn’t help Kentucky. If Mr. Yarmuth would like to try his luck in a U.S. Senate race, we’ll be happy to pay his filing fee, but until then, the senator will be focusing on the people of Kentucky rather than entertaining the congressman’s interest in his election.”
McConnell sparked a Republican revival in Kentucky nearly three decades ago, helping to pick off Democrats in the state’s federal delegation that was sparse on Republicans. After this week’s election, Republicans now hold five of Kentucky’s six U.S. House seats and both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats.
Kentucky also has built a track record of voting for Republican presidential candidates. On Tuesday, Republican Mitt Romney bested President Barack Obama in 116 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.