Ashley Judd meeting with Democratic donors in Louisville, sparks more talk of 2014

02/15/2013 11:41 AM

Potential Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ashley Judd had dinner with Democratic donors and Louisville officials Thursday night at the home of Louisville philanthropist Christy Brown and will be meeting with opponents of mountain top removal mining Friday.

It marked the first meeting in Kentucky Judd has had with potential supporters as she mulls running for the U.S. Senate in 2014 when Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is up for re-election.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth was among those at Thursday’s dinner, his spokesman Stephen George confirmed. Yarmuth was unavailable and George said he didn’t know what was discussed at the meeting. Yarmuth won’t be attending Friday’s meeting, George said.

Brown was unavailable for comment Friday, her assistant said.

Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon said he was aware of Thursday’s meeting but didn’t attend.

“I don’t think it’s my place. Once we get candidates in the race, I’d be happy to meet with them,” Logsdon said. “I’m willing to talk to anyone who wants to take on Senator McConnell.”

Judd also is expected to attend another meeting Friday at Brown’s house in which mountain top removal will be a main topic, confirmed Father John Rausch, a Catholic priest from Stanton. Rausch, who has rallied against that mining practice in Eastern Kentucky, said he was invited to the meeting but can’t attend.

Rausch said it’s no secret that Judd has spoken publicly against mountain top removal. But Rausch said he’s not certain what the meeting means for Judd’s political future.

“Nobody’ made up anybody’s mind yet,” Rausch said. “It will be an exchange of ideas. That’s what we need.

He said Kentuckians deserve more than “senators who are indifferent to the people on the bottom rung.” When asked if he was referring to McConnell, Rausch said “either or both” of McConnell or Kentucky’s junior U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

But Judd’s connection to more liberal Kentucky Democrats — and the issue of mountaintop removal specifically — has been a flashpoint among Kentucky Democrats. In the last several days, dueling pieces about what that means for a Judd candidacy have run in Roll Call and the Daily Beast.

The opinion piece in the Daily Beast, written by former Kentucky Treasurer and 2007 candidate for governor Jonathan Miller, makes the case that the well-known Judd could win if she frames her campaign as Kentucky’s “No. 1 fan” the way she has as a University of Kentucky basketball fan. He acknowledged that her position on coal will be difficult to defend noting that he was unsuccessful with that position in the 2007 Democratic primary. He was supported by some of the same people Judd met with Thursday night but failed to get enough traction in the race and ultimately dropped out to back Steve Beshear.

“But I’m no Ashley Judd,” Miller wrote. “The media won’t—and can’t—ignore her … Judd’s celebrity would guarantee her more than sufficient opportunity to explain her past statements and share her comprehensive vision with voters. To progressives, this is what makes her unique candidacy so exciting.”

The Roll Call article, meanwhile, quoted Kentucky Democratic consultants Dale Emmons and Jim Cauley who said her candidacy would harm other Democrats on the ballot.

It would be “a catastrophe,” as Cauley put in the article.

Cauley told Pure Politics Friday that the 2012 race in the 6th Congressional District in which incumbent Ben Chandler lost to Republican Andy Barr and his coal-centric message should be a warning.

If Judd runs, “the conversation will be about her being a liberal, Hollywood star. It’s not going to be about (McConnell). And I don’t think that’s the ground we want to be on.”

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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