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 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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