Ashley Judd won't run for Senate

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 8:56am

Actress and Democrat Ashley Judd, who was openly considering challenging Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for his Kentucky seat in 2014, announced Wednesday she was "currently unable" to run for public office.

"After serious and thorough contemplation, I realize that my responsibilities & energy at this time need to be focused on my family," Judd wrote on Twitter.

The announcement comes after months of speculation that Judd - an actress with family roots in Kentucky -- would jump into politics. The rumors sparked heavy backlash from Republicans, including McConnell, who began producing videos attacking Judd.

One featured footage of Judd representing the neighboring state Tennessee, where she's lived for years, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. She's also seen saying in the video that San Francisco is her "American city home."

While she partly grew up in the state and graduated from University of Kentucky, Judd has lived elsewhere as an adult, including California and Scotland. She was married to Scottish race car driver Dario Franchitti, but they announced they were getting a divorce earlier this year.

Judd actively campaigned for Obama during the 2008 and 2012 elections and has been known for advocating for poverty reduction, immigration rights, environmental issues, public health, and human rights issues. She also graduated from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a master's degree in 2010.

McConnell, now in his fifth term, wasn't the only one to preemptively go after Judd. American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, spent $10,000 on a web ad earlier this month, also hitting Judd for her declared love of Tennessee, where she owns property and where she spent some time as a child.

Hilary Rosen, the Democratic strategist, said Monday her firm SKDKnickerbocker was consulting Judd on a potential bid.

"She seriously looked at it. There was a tremendous amount of support, and I think she would have made a great candidate," Rosen said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

"The timing just wasn't right. She has a lot of other things going on," Rosen added.

Privately, some Democrats worried Judd was too liberal a candidate for Kentucky, which hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992, when Wendell Ford won re-election.

With Judd out of the race, Democratic eyes are turning to Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's Secretary of State. Grimes has not ruled out a bid against McConnell in 2014, and was touted as a top potential candidate during a conference call with Democratic officials earlier this month.

While the election is still more than a year away, McConnell has gotten a head start on fundraising. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican with broad support among the tea party, hosted an event this week that brought in north of $230,000 for the minority leader. In all, McConnell's campaign had $7.3 million cash on hand as of their last filings with the Federal Election Commission.

-- CNN's Kevin Liptak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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