Ashley Judd getting a divorce. Does that make a Senate run more likely?(Read article summary)
Ashley Judd, an-eighth generation Kentucky native, has lived in Tennessee and Scotland with her husband. Some Kentucky Democrats would like to see Ms. Judd take on Mitch McConnell in 2014.
Actress Ashley Judd and her husband, race car driver Dario Franchitti, are getting divorced after 11 years of marriage. Weâ€™re sure this is sad for both of them, but weâ€™re going to jump ahead to the question every bored aide in the Hart Senate Office Building asked themselves Wednesday when they read the news: Does this mean sheâ€™s going to run for Senate in Kentucky?
[Editor's note: The original version of this story gave the wrong first name for Mr. Franchitti.]
Maybe you didnâ€™t know that was a possibility. But itâ€™s true: Some Kentucky Democrats are talking up Ms. Judd, an eighth-generation Kentucky native, as an ideal candidate to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014.
Judd was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention this summer and is something of a political activist, so itâ€™s not exactly like this is a wacky idea. Plus sheâ€™s been noncommittal in an encouraging kind of way when asked if sheâ€™s interested.
â€śI am incredibly honored and frankly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support â€“ that the people of Kentucky are interested in having me represent them is the greatest honor of my life so far and I am certainly taking a close look at it,â€ť said Judd before the Kentucky Society of Washingtonâ€™s Bluegrass Ball in Washington on Jan. 19, according to a report in Politico.
OK, then. Does her impending divorce indicate sheâ€™s more likely to do this, or less?
Over at The Atlantic, Michael Catalini thinks it means Judd will take a pass.
â€śGiven this development, thereâ€™s a chance Judd wonâ€™t want to jump into a messy political campaign,â€ť he writes.
Catalini adds that this is â€śbad newsâ€ť for Senator McConnell, since Judd would be politically weaker than other Democrats he might face. After all, Kentucky is a conservative state, and Juddâ€™s own grandmother called her a â€śHollywood liberal.â€ť Plus, while she was a DNC delegate, she didnâ€™t represent Kentucky. She represented Tennessee â€“ the state she and Franchitti called home.
For the sake of argument weâ€™ll take the other side. We believe the impending divorce means itâ€™s more likely sheâ€™ll try electoral politics, not less. Her husband is Scottish, which might not exactly have won her votes, and the couple also lived part-time in Scotland, which is inconvenient if youâ€™ve got to campaign in Lexington on Tuesday next. Now she can bill herself as making a clean sweep of things, including her non-Kentucky residencies, and say sheâ€™s coming home to the place she belongs.
(Yes, thatâ€™s a John Denver reference. Please keep reading anyway.)
After all, it isnâ€™t like McConnellâ€™s a steamroller. His recent polls numbers have been so-so, which is either surprising in light of his national status, or the result of it, depending on which expert you ask.
A recent Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll found that 17 percent of voters said they would vote for McConnell, while 34 percent said they would vote against him. Forty-four percent said they would wait to see who McConnell runs against before deciding.
Tea party supporters in the state remain angry over McConnellâ€™s role in the recent fiscal agreement with the Obama administration that kept the nation from plunging off the so-called â€śfiscal cliff.â€ť Some Democratic donors have even discussed teaming up with tea party groups to fund a primary challenge to McConnell from the right.
Why? Because Democrats think someone to McConnellâ€™s right would be a weaker statewide candidate, thatâ€™s why.
But Judd is going to have to stop acting coy and make her intentions plain fairly soon is sheâ€™s really going to run. Some state Democrats think her statements against mountaintop coal mining â€“ a big issue in a state depending on coal jobs â€“ would drag her down in a Senate race. Yet by toying with a run sheâ€™s blocking other, possibly more viable candidates from getting in themselves.