Ashley Judd Drops Out of Senate Race She Never Officially Entered

The actress who was reportedly eyeing a Kentucky run says she’s not running 'at this time.'

Well, that was fast. Before she was ever an official candidate for the Kentucky Senate, actress-turned-activist Ashley Judd issued a statement on her website Wednesday, saying she wasn’t going to run after all.

“With the help of my pastors and mentors, I have thoughtfully and prayerfully concluded that I won’t run for the United States Senate at this time.”

Her boilerplate bow out of the race she’d never officially entered, though, didn’t tell the whole story. As a candidate, she was never entirely a strong choice.  

Though she’d been ramping up her activist profile over the last year, giving speeches around the country like a candidate ready to run, she never publicly acknowledged “the elephant in the room,” which is how she obliquely responded to one question about her possible political career while speaking at George Washington University about reproductive rights earlier this month.

While some were hoping her high profile and celebrity cache would help defeat incumbent Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, whose poll numbers have recently revealed vulnerability, others, like the Washington Post, weren’t ever convinced.

The paper wrote: “McConnell and his campaign team have proven lethal at savaging past opponents, making the race entirely about his Democratic challenger and almost nothing about him. Judd was tailor-made for that approach, a Hollywood actress with lots (and lots) of public statements that are totally fine when made by an entertainer but simply don’t work in the context of a political campaign.”

In other words, it would have been far too easy to paint Judd as an inexperienced celebrity dallying in politics – and for Judd, it would’ve been hard to purport yourself as a woman of the people when you’re a multimillionaire who “winters” in Scotland.

Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, told US News: “Her public statements seem out of step with Kentuckians and that makes her a dark horse candidate.”

She also had residency issues. Though she grew up in the state, she actually lives in Tennessee and would have had to establish residency in Kentucky, perhaps resorting to a Hillary Clinton-like talking tour (which would have opened her up to more criticism). And earlier this year, she got a divorce. That never bodes well for a candidacy, as voters like to see a strong family unit.

In lieu of Judd dropping out, another name has surfaced—and some say she’s one of the reasons Judd dropped out. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is now being floated as a possible candidate. At 34, she’s a clean slate —having only held office for a year – and it’s been reported that she’s met with Bill Clinton who is urging her to run. Grimes is more moderate ideologically than the very liberal Judd, and though Kentucky boasts more registered Democrats than Republicans, it’s still a fairly conservative state that voted for Mitt Romney last November.

For the record, Grimes might be no match for McConnell’s hardcore war chest, either (he raised $26 million the last go-round).

It might not be over for Judd, though. ABC News speculated that she might be eyeing 2016’s challenge against Rand Paul, who is believed to be toying with a Presidential run. You can’t run for both seats in the state, so he’d be leaving a space wide open to challengers.

Maybe by then, Grimes will have beaten McConnell, and Judd will have had time to sharpen the knives in her drawer for a run against Paul. And Kentucky will have not just one Democratic woman in office, but two.

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