By Howard Fineman, Huffington Post – LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ashley Judd, the 44-year-old actress and social activist, has told key advisers and political figures that she is planning to announce her candidacy for U.S. Senate here this spring.
Judd told one close ally that she plans to announce her run for the Democratic nomination for the 2014 race “around Derby” — meaning in early May when the Kentucky Derby brings national attention to Louisville and the Bluegrass State.
Reached for comment by email Saturday, Judd offered a not-quite-ironclad denial to The Huffington Post. “I am not sure who is saying this stuff, but it is not I! I’d prefer as a fan of your journalism that you stay accurate and credible. We told everyone who called us yesterday these stories are fabrications.”
But she declined to specify which “stories,” did not say what wasn’t “accurate,” and did not respond when asked directly whether she had, in fact, decided to run or chosen a time to declare her intentions.
“I know she knows she has to declare soon,” said one source, a highly placed elected official who declined to be identified because he was discussing private plans.
“She could always change her mind,” he added. “I changed my mind twice before I finally declared. But as of now it is a done deal.” She has discussed her plans, sources say, with former Gov. Wendell H. Ford, the 88-year-old dean of Kentucky Democrats, among others.
The announcement, her allies told The Huffington Post, could “clear the field” of major contenders for the Democratic nomination, setting up a wild, made-for-YouTube contest between the free-wheeling, media-savvy Hollywood actress, and the methodically accusatory machine of the five-term Republican senator — and Senate minority leader — Mitch McConnell of Louisville.
Judd, sources say, is working with New York pollster Jefrey Pollock; has interviewed a number of media consultants including Anita Dunn, formerly of the Obama campaigns, and J.B. Poersch, the former head of the Democrats’ national senate campaign committee, as well as leaders of Emily’s List; and is lining up allies and field organizers. Advisers in Lexington are working on her filing papers and other technical issues.
As early as last summer, according to a top Democratic fundraiser with ties to President Barack Obama. Judd discussed the role of a woman candidate in a Senate race with another Pollock client, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Judd has some prominent backers in the state, led by Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville; Christy Brown, whose family controls the Brown-Forman distilling fortune; and Brown’s son-in-law Matthew Barzun, the former ambassador to Sweden (and probable future ambassador to the United Kingdom), who was Obama’s finance chairman in the 2012 campaign.
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