By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
Actress and activist Ashley Judd may be getting closer to a decision on whether to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Larry Clark, the Democratic Speaker Pro Tem of the state House, told CNHI News Wednesday Judd called him and they talked about the race.
“I told her I was in session and I’d be happy to talk to her in a couple of weeks,” Clark said.
Later, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Judd had called his cell, but he hadn’t spoken with her so far.
“She tried to call my cell,” Stumbo told reporters before convening the House Wednesday afternoon. “She left a message — but the message was ‘Hi, Mr. Adkins.’”
Rocky Adkins is the Democratic Majority Leader in the House. He, like Stumbo, is from eastern Kentucky and is a strong supporter of coal.
Adkins and Stumbo have been among those Democrats expressing reservation about a Judd candidacy in Kentucky because she’s an outspoken critic of mountaintop removal mining.
Judd has been pondering a run for the Democratic nomination next year to oppose McConnell in the fall. But the actress currently lives in Tennessee and would have to re-establish residency in Kentucky before she can run.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, has encouraged Judd to consider the race and the possibility of the Hollywood actress and perhaps the best known University of Kentucky basketball fan in the country, has excited national Democrats and donors.
But the idea has been met with reservation by conservative Democrats who say Judd’s outspoken views on some social issues and mining won’t fare well, especially in eastern Kentucky. Some fear she’ll be a drag on the Democratic ticket next year when state House races are also on the ballot and Republicans are looking to take control of the House.
Judd is a University of Kentucky graduate and often is shown on national telecasts of UK men’s basketball games. She is the daughter of Naomi Judd and sister of Wynona of Ashland.
She is currently living in Tennessee and recently announced she and her husband, Formula One race car driver Dario Francitti, are divorcing.
Republican forces have already begun preparing for a possible Judd candidacy. American Crossroads, which is run by former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, has already produced a web video humorously questioning which Democrat will, in the end, challenge McConnell.
In the ad, the narrator pokes fun at Judd for her Tennessee residency and uses edited clips of Judd endorsing President Barack Obama who remains widely unpopular in Kentucky.
Judd also recently met with prospective Democratic donors in Louisville at a meeting also attended by Yarmuth.
Yarmuth has said Judd expects to make a decision about the race by Derby Day in May.
Ed Marksberry of Owensboro has announced he will run in the Democratic primary. Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes has also been mentioned as a potential candidate but declines to take questions about the race.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.