LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes isn't saying whether she's seriously considering a run for U.S. Senate next year.
Grimes, a rising star in Kentucky politics, steadfastly refused to give even a hint about what she might do, although she acknowledged Wednesday that she has being getting encouragement to seek the Democratic nomination to run against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
During a stop at the University of Kentucky, Grimes said she won't consider a Senate candidacy until after the Legislature adjourns next Tuesday. As the state's chief election officer, Grimes said she's solely focused on getting lawmakers to pass a bill intended to ensure that Kentucky soldiers deployed overseas get to vote in Kentucky elections.
Grimes has been crusading for legislation that would allow soldiers to send election ballots back to the state electronically to make sure they're not lost or delayed in the mail. And she wants ballots returned by mail to be counted even if they arrive up to two days after an election.
The proposal hit a snag in the state Senate, where lawmakers worry hackers could interfere with Kentucky elections and that candidates could have to wait an extra two days in close elections to find out if they had won.
"We have to give our military the time to get the ballots back or a give them a tool to get the ballots back quicker," Grimes said Wednesday. "And so I'm reaching out and am hopeful Senate leaders will meet me halfway."
Grimes dodged questions about whether former President Bill Clinton had encouraged her run, and whether she thought McConnell was effectively representing Kentucky is Washington. Each questioned elicited the same response: "My focus right now has been on the legislative session."
Political commentators and bloggers have been focusing on Grimes in recent days as one of at least two potential challengers that Democratic leaders are courting. Actress Ashley Judd, a former Kentucky resident now living in Tennessee, also is mulling a race.
Like Grimes, Judd has been largely mum about her intentions. She met privately with about 50 people last month in Louisville for a listening session to hear their concerns. She also has talked with Democratic leaders, including Gov. Steve Beshear, about the race.
University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck said both Grimes and Judd have a solid reason to wait to announce if they're getting in the race.
"If you come right out and say you're running, it suddenly attracts all that criticism," Rhodebeck said.
Defeating McConnell would be the Democrats' biggest prize of the 2014 election. His seat is one of 14 that Republicans are defending while Democrats try to hold onto 21, hoping to retain or add to their 55-45 edge.
Judd, a former Ashland resident who has starred in such movies as "Kiss the Girls," ''Double Jeopardy," and "Where the Heart Is," has said only that she's "very honored" to be considered a potential candidate.