Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is emerging as the top pick among some prominent Democrats to challenge Sen. Mitch McConnell next year, as concerns grow that actress Ashley Judd could do more to harm than help Democratic chances of unseating the Senate Republican leader.
According to Politico
, former President Bill Clinton recently took Grimes aside at an event in Owensboro, Ky., and over 35 minutes explained why a Senate bid against McConnell would offer a bigger platform than running for governor in 2015 or pursuing a U.S. House seat, both of which have been talked about as possible next steps in Grimes' young political career.
Clinton reportedly told Grimes, who at 34 is still in her first year as secretary of state, that he and Hillary Clinton would back her Senate bid.
Politico also reported that Grimes has met with officials of the Democratic Senatorial
Campaign Committee to explore the possibility.
The former president is a long-time friend of Grimes' father, Jerry Lundergan, the former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman, who helped him carry the state in his 1992 and 1996 presidential victories. Clinton also has strong ties to other top state party leaders.
But as the 2014 race draws closer, the Democrats are apparently deeply divided over how to beat McConnell, a major target in the midterm elections, and even Clinton's influence may not be enough to persuade Grimes to go up against McConnell's powerful political machine and money.
Until now, Judd has been the most widely talked-about challenger. But her staunchly liberal politics and activism have already been the target of McConnell's supporters, including GOP political strategist Karl Rove, whose super PAC launched a searing campaign ad against her last month.
“It's my personal, professional judgment that [Judd] places others on the ballot in peril if some of the fears…come to fruition,” Dale Emmons, a Kentucky Democratic campaign official for more than 20 years, told Politico.
“I don’t know if she has the pulse of the voters in Kentucky,” added Nathan Smith, a former vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.
But Judd's supporters argue that her strong name recognition and movie-star status could re-energize the Democratic base in the state.
“I don't think anybody in Kentucky has felt the excitement on the national level that Ashley Judd's candidacy would bring,” Rep. John Yarmuth, who has emerged as the most prominent public proponent of Judd's candidacy, told Politico. “I think many people in Kentucky are thinking about it in very conventional terms, and I don't think it will be a conventional race.”
Grimes' candidacy, he added, “would be a more conventional candidacy; she's not going to get $20 million of free media.”
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