Almost two years out, it's rough in Kentucky
February 8th, 2013
12:37 PM ET
2 years ago

Almost two years out, it's rough in Kentucky

(CNN) – The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is already the nastiest Senate fight in the country, twenty-one months before voters head to the polls.

Without an official Democratic candidate in the race, Republicans are going after actress Ashley Judd, who has expressed interest in running for the seat but has yet to officially declare her candidacy. She did, however, set up a feature for soliciting emails addresses on her website this week.


Meanwhile, Democrats are honing in on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his stance on gun rights as new legislation moves through Congress.

The early start in Kentucky actually began before 2012's general election. McConnell, wary of a primary challenge from a tea party candidate in his state, hired former Ron Paul aide Jesse Benton in September to run his 2014 campaign. Benton also worked on Rand Paul's Kentucky Senate campaign in 2010.

The moves to consolidate GOP support for McConnell are paired with attacks on Ashley Judd from American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove. The group began by spending $10,000 on a web ad earlier this week, lambasting Judd for her declared allegiance to President Barack Obama, and her love of Tennessee, the state neighboring Kentucky where she's lived for years.

"This is just a fun way to kind of get under her skin a little bit and kind of show her what a campaign would really be like if she makes this decision," Jonathan Collegio, the communications director for American Crossroads, told CNN on Thursday.

Rove himself said Thursday that American Crossroads was "making fun of her" with the spot. "She is way far out on the left wing of the Democratic Party, which is not very far left in Kentucky."

The former top adviser to George W. Bush was speaking on Fox News, where he is a paid contributor.

"She's going to get to know that she's not going to be able to wait until the screenwriters from California and producers make her look good, and prepare the ads, and give her lots of lines to memorize so that she can handle these things. We're going to make her start saying where she's coming from," Rove said, referring to Judd's residence in Tennessee.

He also said to expect more attacks on Judd as the election gets closer.

"She doesn't want a long campaign, because this is just the opening story and ad," Rove said. "She's said a bunch of stuff that the people of Kentucky are not going to like, and we are going to lay it out in plenty of time for people to get a handle on it."

Responding to the initial ad from American Crossroads, a spokesman for Judd said "Ashley thanks Senator McConnell, Karl Rove, and their negative allies for all the attention as she considers her future political plans, although a decision hasn't been made yet."

Meanwhile, an outside group on the Democratic side is targeting Sen. Mitch McConnell, Judd's potential rival who serves as the Republican leader in the Senate.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Friday they were expanding their ad buy hitting McConnell for his stance on gun control. On Tuesday the group announced they would spend $27,000 to air the ad for one week on broadcast and cable television in Kentucky and Washington, D.C.

That buy was expended Friday to include airings during Saturday night's Louisville vs. Notre Dame college basketball game. McConnell is an alumnus of the University of Louisville and a self-professed fan of their basketball team.

The ad will also air in commercial breaks during Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday.

"Thousands of families across Kentucky will tune into the basketball game, the Sunday political talk shows, and the State of the Union address. They will see that despite 82% of Kentuckians supporting criminal background checks for gun purchases, Mitch McConnell sides with the big gun industry that has spent $198,615 to get him elected," Adam Green, the co-founder of PCCC, said in a statement.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: Ashley Judd • Kentucky • Mitch McConnell
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. patiat

    Usually I find it difficult to take most celebrity political candidates seriously, but Ashley Judd has shown herself to be pretty intelligent and astute over the years, on a variety of matters. Whether that makes her a great candidate, I don't know, but I won't blow her off as a candidate just because she's a celebrity.

    February 8, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. Bugl3t

    Wasn't McConnell born in Alabama?

    February 8, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  3. nothing new here

    Poor poor GOP'ers, they have to contend with Democrats and Tea Party members.
    Boo hoo.

    February 8, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. pjl

    Run Ashley Run – Time to Ditch Mitch – It's time the Turtle Looking Tepublican to be put out to Kentucky Pasture

    February 8, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    Hey, Ashley ... you go girl !!!

    The man who spent four years making Obama a two term president is getting raked over the coal (Kentucky Coal, no less) by someone young enough to be his daughter. Oh how I love it.

    And poor Karl Rove. Spent his entire adult life begging for and then wasting other peoples money, and what does he get for his return? Ashley Judd.

    February 8, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. yanni

    I hope you bring new and fresh ideas to move America forward, rather than making your existence worth to see the US president fails. America needs your service.

    February 8, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. Brian from CO

    I think it might be a mistake for run Judd in KY. I think McConnel can be beaten but it is to easy to paint Judd out as a Holywood liberal, which to many in KY will not like. What the Dems need is a good moderate democrat to run.

    February 8, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. kayla

    get rid of mr. turtle

    February 8, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Gurgyl

    Kick these idiots and send them home for GOOD.

    February 8, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. WiredweirdinSF

    You gotta just laugh at the stupidity of the libs and other Obozo supporters. After demonizing Republicans in their push for voter i.d,. by saying that fraudulent votes were as rare as getting struck by lightning, it turns out that there are 19 active voter fraud cases in Cincinnati, including an Obama supporting eletion officieal and her daughter each of whom voted for the most inept, incompetnet, corrupt, lying, union toady president we have ever had. How's that doubling of gas prices since he came in to office making you feel? Did you see your paycheck shrink? Gee, I guess he lied.

    February 8, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. callmecrazy

    Now we know how our children learn how to bully others. Typical republican tactics. I hope she wins by a landslide.

    February 8, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "She's going to get to know that she's not going to be able to wait until the screenwriters from California and producers make her look good, and prepare the ads, and give her lots of lines to memorize so that she can handle these things. We're going to make her start saying where she's coming from," Rove said, referring to Judd's residence in Tennessee."

    Translation: "I'm a petty old white man clinging desperately to power and the errant belief that I remain relevant in the 21st century. Therefore, our new tactic as a party is going to be publicly bullying private citizens who aren't even campaigning against us yet, especially if we're as terrified of them as I am of Ms. Judd, in an attempt to get them not to run. In addition, meep meep meep."

    February 8, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "The man who spent four years making Obama a two term president is getting raked over the coal (Kentucky Coal, no less) by someone young enough to be his daughter"

    New rule! No references allowed...no matter how attenuated...to Senator Beaker reproducing.

    YUCK. And besides, it gives Darwin a sad.

    February 8, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. Al-NY,NY

    mumbles McConnell...the face of the GOP but I dont see him losing in the gun-totin', gay-hain', god-fearing backward state of KY.

    February 8, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. Jeffer65

    I don't much about Judd or her views on issues, but for cryin' out loud, GOP, she has not even announced she is running. Regardless, Turtle-face needs to go.

    February 8, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  16. Willie K.

    Brian is right, Ashley might not be able to win in Ky. due to some of her prior statements, even though McConnell is very unpopular. But with Karl Rove already hitting her over the head, it can only help her standing with the voters. If the last election taught us nothing else, it should have taught us that the big money, desperate smear tactics no longer work. The more you try this crap, the more it backfires. So bring it on, Bush's Brain. You just might help her get elected!

    February 8, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. yanni

    @Brian from CO
    Considering the idea of conservatism; being liberal no longer a bad name. America is constantly changing and growing, this is not an old era; people get doses of information from different sources every day. I am sure KY is changing too. The GOP is standing with the few privileged; the KY middle class and the poor know better that the current GOP is not their grandfather party.

    February 8, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. chilly g

    she is a native of that state and the peoples like her so maybe she can win but i would rather seea more season candicate.

    February 8, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. JohnW

    They might as well make a commercial that says "Mitch McConnel. We know he's awful, but he's all we've got."

    February 8, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Randy, San Francisco

    Welcome to tough and tumble world of politics. Ashley Judd is tough and will battle with the best. Senator Ashley Judd sounds good!

    February 8, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  21. jane

    Mrs Judd...I SUPPORT YOU!!!!

    February 8, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  22. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Run Ashley Run, it's time to run all obstructionist like McConnell out of office. This is the 21st Century and not the 18th or 19th Century when people like McConnell, McCain and a few others were born, this country needs 21st Century views in order to move forward.

    February 8, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  23. Larry L

    Mitch McConnell has the distinction of being the only Senator in history to make a proposal, get it approved by the Majority Leader for a vote, then immediately filibuster his own proposal. I'll bet that made the folks in Kentucky proud.

    February 8, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. 2012liberal

    Love how rethugs put down 'celebrities' but always sing the praises of reagen. Who btw was a hollywood movie star. Lol

    February 8, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |