Ky. House Democratic Leader: Judd "not the best candidate" unless she changes on coal

02/15/2013 07:42 PM

State House Democrats, who have their slimmest margin of control in decades, are concerned that Ashley Judd as their party’s U.S. Senate candidate could be a drag for them unless she changes her public opinion on coal.

“If she can’t do that, she wouldn’t be the best candidate in my opinion,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook. “There’s no question that the issue of coal and her position on mountaintop mining, in my opinion, would be harmful to her in coal regions of the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Rumblings have increased that Judd is close to announcing an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate against Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014. And Thursday, she met at philanthropist Christy Brown’s home with Democratic donors and officials including U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, as Pure Politics first reported .

Adkins hails from Elliott County in Eastern Kentucky, has worked for coal companies and has been an ardent defender of the industry, including in this 2012 New York Times article .

Here’s what Adkins said about a potential Judd candidacy:

Adkins’ remarks echo those of other conservative Democrats and party strategists, who from a practical point of view, see Judd as the wrong candidate to take on McConnell. Kentucky Democrats in recent weeks have told national reporters for media like The Hill , MSNBC and most recently Roll Call on Thursday that they’re concerned about Judd being too liberal.

Judd has made numerous speeches in Washington and in Kentucky in recent years voicing her opposition to the practice.

Jim Cauley, a Pikeville native who ran Gov. Steve Beshear’s campaign in 2007, was one of the consultants quoted in the Roll Call piece.

He told me Friday in a phone interview that Judd was almost assured of being the Democratic nominee if she ran. And in fact, her consideration is keeping others, like Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes from making any moves toward potentially running.

“I’m hearing she would take a look at it, but she’s being shut down completely” but Judd’s camp, Cauley said.

Both Cauley and Adkins said the coal issue would be a major liability for Judd in eastern and western Kentucky.

“Ask Congressman — I’m sorry, former Congressman — Ben Chandler how it feels to be wrong on coal,” Cauley said.

But for House Democrats who will be on the ballot in 2014 — and in new districts once the lines are redrawn in redistricting — the question is whether it would be better to have Judd at the top of the ticket raising national money that would force McConnell to spend his. Or would is it a greater risk to end up without a top-flight contender and allow McConnell to spend some of his millions of dollars helping Republican state House candidates?

Cauley said McConnell would likely spend some of those funds helping down-ballot candidates, but the bulk of any excess campaign money would go out-of-state to help GOP Senate candidates get McConnell to his other goal in 2014.

“He ain’t spending that money on the House of Representatives. he’ll spend it on becoming the majority leader,” Cauley said.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or


  • Curtis Morrison wrote on February 15, 2013 11:46 PM :

    Someone needs to tell Rocky Adkins that 57% of Kentucky Appalachians oppose mountaintop removal.

  • viewer wrote on February 16, 2013 08:47 AM :

    The word I got last night was Crit is waiting on the governors race. She said her decision was final. Which I dont like , but do understand. So now its all about Alison Grimes and what she wants to do. She has a punchers chance of beating Mitch , but I still dont see it. The dems need to get Judd out of the talks sooner than later. It looks as that we will have Mitch another 6 years. Very good job last night to Nick Storm on Comment on Ky. Nick did the show well….

  • Bruce Layne wrote on February 16, 2013 09:32 AM :

    I’d say that “not the best candidate” is political doublespeak for “the worst candidate imaginable”.

    Hollyweird leftist Tennessee resident. McConnell could phone in his campaign.

    Even a momentary semi-sober consideration of Ashley Judd for the US Senate is a great embarrassment to Kentucky.

  • sam pierce wrote on February 16, 2013 12:36 PM :

    Run Ashley Run!!! Lose Ashley Lose!!! I agree with the ethically challenged-Rocky Adkins that Mitch will defeat Ashley. How could anyone who voted against Obama vote for Ashley Judd. They are one and the same. “Ashley can’t win in Kentucky. She can’t win in Tennessee. She needs to pack up her stuff and head to Beverly…..Hills that is. Californy is the place she oughtta be. Movie stars, liberals, air heads” Move away, move away, move away, Ashley Judd.

  • Mike wrote on February 16, 2013 12:46 PM :

    II am not sure Judd is the best candidate either; but her position on coal is that:
    Children and adults in Appalachia shouldn’t be getting cancer at alarming rates or poisoned from the water in their wells caused by mining.
    That our mountains don’t need to be chopped off so that coal companies can increase their profits and cut jobs (which is what they actually do while claiming that environmentalists are the problem.)
    That fossil fuels are going to run out during the lifetimes of our youngest citizens no matter what we do to try to fight that future reality. That the real hope for our mountains is renewable energy, including wind and solar, which would actually INCREASE the numbers of jobs while lowering both air and water pollution.
    That natural gas has already cut into our coal production. That even though sales to China and India might “save” the Kentucky coal industry in the short run, both are leading to a long-term negative future and that our legislators (as seen with the pension fiasco) do not plan for the future, but only the current reality, if that. Until they start to work together for the future we’re doomed as a state to not only continued high poverty, but increased poverty.
    That the Republicans in our legislature don’t care how low wages and benefits get or they wouldn’t be so anti-worker, in part as seen in their attitude toward coal.
    That coal operators continue to lie to their workers to get them to vote against their own self interests with threats of cut backs, while lowering their actual incomes and benefits to increase their bottom lines.

    Our Democratic “leaders” are too often just as stupid about the long-term reality.

    Having said all that I’m a senior citizen; and most of this will have zero affect on me because I won’t be around to see it.

    Let’s just hope some actual leader (of which we have zero to few in our legislature or executive branch) will actually lead us into a future of improved health for all Kentuckians, but especially those in the area where I call home.

  • viewer wrote on February 16, 2013 01:34 PM :

    I agree with Judd 100 percent on what she says about coal. The money has left Ky and done nothing but put the poorest Kentuckians falling for the 1 percent spin. Coal has kept Eastern Ky poor and uneducated for years. Andy Barr doesnt give a damn about a coal miner. His money came from the owners. All that comes with coal from mountains being destroyed , dirty water streams, broken body’s and spirits, to the cancer of the citizens. To fight for coal is to fight for a McDonalds to come to town. Its going against the health of the community. Judd cant win, she has good ideas and beliefs , but she cant win.

  • Concerned Kentuckian wrote on February 16, 2013 11:36 PM :

    All you people who support mountain top removal, can you tell me why? Can’t see that it has helped anyone in Kentucky. It has only harmed the people of eastern Kentucky, while providing big profits for companies that take the money out of state. Quit sucking up to these companies who perpetuate the practice and get others to support it out of fear of loss of jobs in eastern Kentucky. I for one, although I usually vote Republican, would vote for Ashley Judd just because I think mountain-top removal is a travesty that has caused nothing but enormous health and environmental issues for Kentucky and she has been one of the few courageous enough to protest it. We need people like her in government, not the current crop that just vote for where the money is for them.

  • waybert17 wrote on February 17, 2013 03:28 AM :

    Maybe if you didn’t have so many Democratic politicians screwing Eastern Kentucky in Frankfort….you might have a chance!

  • viewer wrote on February 18, 2013 10:41 AM :

    Anyone that is interested in putting a plan together to try to beat Mitch watch this show. Moyers & Company- The fight to keep Democracy Alive. PBS. Mitch got Amgen ( a pill company )$500 million in special back door deal on debt ceiling talks. To beat him you will need to show where he got his war chest. You will need to show how much he has hurt the country with his dealings in Washington. And last how Kentuckians bank roll has’nt kept up with his. He married money but also has made them more money.

  • waybert17 wrote on February 18, 2013 12:03 PM :

    Sadly, viewer, this is true of all of our politicians of both parties, Democrats and Republicans. If you look at the funding that politicians get for their political campaigns, you will find that very few get any money from us “little guys.” Just as McConnell has sold himself to fund his campaigns….Judd will do the same to raise funds when and if she runs, and I doubt that any of that money will come from us “little guys.”

  • viewer wrote on February 18, 2013 12:35 PM :

    I agree Waybert17. If you have read my post I take them all on. I have tried my best to get voters to vote out Stumbo, Rocky Adkins, Keith Hall, and Sannie Overly. On the Gop side Mitch , Brett Guthrie, Andy Barr , and Massie have to go. We as a state are in a pickel trying to get people into politics. You got people like Barr and Jack Conway , that win by default. But the ones that would do the state good dont want to play with the Leonord Lawson’s of the world to get elected. Its really sad thing to watch. We have no true leaders in Ky. Thats why we talk about the bible, coal, and Obama every time we try to talk about real problems that have keep the state down for years.

  • viewer wrote on February 18, 2013 01:18 PM :

    Rocky Adkins has gave up on educating his people. To him a coal job or a prison coming to town is all his people are fit for. Thats why he looks like a genius to the ones that vote for him. The way he wants it. Well , he gets it…. Sad but true friends

  • Rufus wrote on February 18, 2013 02:01 PM :

    Ryan: Pst: Ashley Judd can WIN without support from these shills for strip miners. Besides, she’ll do fine in Western Ky. (It doesn’t have any hills to destroy and drinking water to poison.) Meanwhile, btw, people should know you’re basically asking Republicans whether a Democrat can win a US senate seat; do you really think these people are DEMOCRATS? Don’t you know that virtually every lawmaker/politician you quote is and has been in the coal industry’s pocket for years. OF COURSE they want Ashley to back off of MTR! But people also should know, as you do, that Rocky has had a do-nothing, well-paid job for Addington Brothers coal operations for decades, as has Sen. Robin Webb; that Speaker Greg Stumbo was once cited for operating an illegal two-acre strip job; that Rep. W. Keith Hall is a coal broker who helped engineer a $9 billion sale to India and now describes himself as CEO of a coal company; that Cauley’s been in bed with Pike County’s coal operators all his life; that Gov. Beshear, who was such a good attorney general,long ago sold his soul to the coal industry as did, of course, former Gov. Patton, Rep. Leslie Combs, Rep. Hubert Collins, etc., etc. Mitch is their candidate, their “man,” such as he is…he’s also an embarrassment to the state and you, of all people, should know it’s long past the time to get rid of him….

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