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Sources: Judd strategizing Senate bid, will attend Bluegrass Ball

by Joe Arnold


Posted on January 18, 2013 at 8:02 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 19 at 1:21 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- With speculation continuing to swirl about a possible U.S. Senate run, actress Ashley Judd plans to attend the Kentucky Society's Bluegrass Ball on Saturday night in Washington, D.C..

Sources tell WHAS11 News that Judd has been discussing a campaign with Democratic strategists and plans to conduct exploratory activities in Kentucky as soon as February.

Judd was a late addition to the guest list and has requested an opportunity to address the dinner guests, said Winn Williams, Kentucky Society President.  Williams said negotiations were underway with Judd's publicists, explaining that the program for the event had already been printed.

Winn did not speculate whether Judd planned to use the appearance to address any interest in the 2014 race against McConnell.

In polls released by both Public Policy Polling and McConnell's campaign in December, the five-term incumbent led Judd by only four percentage points.  Yet, in McConnell's poll, Judd's appeal among Kentucky voters plummeted once they were informed that she lives in Tennessee and Scotland, has criticized coal plants, and her own grandmother once referred to her as a "Hollywood liberal."

Judd may be recognized for her humanitarian efforts, Winn said.  She attended the inaugural weekend ball in 2009.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R) will not attend, spokesman Robert Steurer said.

Winn told WHAS11 that McConnell was originally on the guest list.

Talk of Judd's potential candidacy exploded in social media and in political circles in November after the idea was touted by U.S. Representative John Yarmuth (D-Ky3), the lone surviving Democrat in Kentucky's congressional delegation after the 2012 election.

"I cherish Kentucky, heart and soul, and while I'm very honored by the consideration, we have just finished an election," Judd said in a statement e-mailed to WHAS11 in November, "So, let's focus on coming together to keep moving America's families, and especially our kids, forward."

Marking its 100th anniversary in 2013, the non-partisan Kentucky Society of Washington began hosting the Bluegrass Balls for presidential inaugurations in 1949  when Kentucky native Alben Barkley was vice president.

Proceeds from the event benefit scholarships for Kentucky students.

Judd will not be the only celebrity in attendance, Williams said.  Celebrity chef Edward Lee of Louisville's 610 Magnolia restaurant created the Kentucky-oriented menu for the 2013 event.  Lee appeared on the television shows, “Iron Chef America” and “Top Chef."

Phyllis George, former Miss America and First Lady of Kentucky, and her daughter Pamela Brown, a Washington, DC television reporter are the emcees of the event.

Williams said about 850 people are expected to attend the sold-out event at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.  Among the expected guests are Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) and Kentucky U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D), Brett Guthrie (R), Andy Barr (R), Ed Whitfield (R) and Thomas Massie (R).