Kentucky: Land of political opportunity

03/13/2013 01:50 PM

The following is an excerpt of an article written by Pure Politics’ Ryan Alessi for award-winning online news and entertainment website

So, all it took for the rest of the country to notice Kentucky politics again was a Senate minority leader, a 13-hour filibuster and an actress-activist preparing for the role of candidate. Just like that, the Bluegrass State has emerged as the home base for some of the most interesting players — and one of the most-discussed aspiring player – in Washington politics.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, in addition to being a fixture on the Sunday talk show circuit, leads a diverse Senate Republican caucus. Actress Ashley Judd continues to lay the groundwork for a potential run against McConnell in 2014, which has the national and state press abuzz. And the commonwealth’s junior U.S. senator, Rand Paul, just made a 13-hour splash on CSPAN-2 with his filibuster last week. And he’s a top contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016.

But this isn’t the result of some Kentucky machine churning out political superstars. “None of them came up in the traditional way. They didn’t come up through the legislature. Even McConnell was sort of nobody’s protégé. He just kind of worked his way up,” said Trey Grayson, the former Kentucky Secretary of State who is now director of the Harvard Institute of Politics.

Oddly, none of the three was born in Kentucky. McConnell was born in Alabama and moved to Kentucky as an eighth-grader. Paul, of course, grew up in Texas with a congressman for a father and didn’t settle in the Bluegrass state until he met his wife, who was a Kentuckian. And Judd was born in California to her famous mother, Naomi, but did go to middle school in Ashland, Ky., and got a degree from the University of Kentucky.

Politically, each has found a different path, exploiting fortuitous timing and the opportunities that a smaller state offers.

For more, you can read Ryan Alessi’s full article on the Salon website .


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