Gov. Steve Beshear said Tuesday that he has spoken with actress Ashley Judd about her potentially challenging U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, but he declined to give details of the conversation.
"I'm convinced that she is seriously considering a race for the United States Senate in the Democratic primary," Beshear said. "I think she can be an effective and formidable candidate."
Beshear said the conversation took place last week, but he could not remember on what day. He said other Democratic candidates might be considering a run against the longtime Republican senator from Louisville, but he declined to name them. Beshear made the comments at a news conference Tuesday in the state Capitol on an unrelated topic.
Beshear is among several Democratic officials whom Judd has contacted in recent weeks. She also has spoken with Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, and she has tried to contact House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.
Judd, a former Kentucky resident who now lives in Tennessee, has not said whether she will leave acting for politics. She spoke at an event last week at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but she declined to take any questions from reporters.
Stumbo said last week that the Hollywood actress could make life difficult for McConnell, a prodigious fundraiser and a disciplined campaigner.
"Ashley Judd, if she chooses to get into this race, will be a formidable candidate by the time this race is over," Stumbo said. "Mitch McConnell is viewed as being the father of gridlock, the master of what's wrong in Washington. ... And she's a fresh face."
McConnell and groups backing him have released online videos in recent weeks criticizing Judd and other potential Democratic challengers. The Republican Party also is gearing up for a possible Judd-McConnell battle in 2014.
Steve Robertson, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, sent letters to House Democrats Monday urging them to back McConnell. The letter included an attachment with some of Judd's prior statements, including critical comments of the coal industry and comments she has made about not having children because there are so many starving and needy children in the world. Robertson's letter was first reported by CN|2 Pure Politics on Monday.
In his letter, Robertson asked Democratic legislators if Judd's views mirrored those of their constituents. All 100 members of the House and half the Senate are up for re-election in 2014. Republicans made a strong push in 2012 to take over the Democratic-controlled House, but fell short. There are 45 Republicans and 55 Democrats in Kentucky's lower chamber. The Kentucky House is the last Democratic-controlled chamber in the South.
"I know that Team Mitch and the Republican Party of Kentucky will be building a large coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Independents for McConnell and will encourage all of your constituents to join," Robertson wrote.