Former Miss America latest to look at US Senate

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Associated Press

Posted on May 22, 2013 at 2:06 PM

Updated Thursday, May 23 at 11:02 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Former Miss America Heather French Henry is the latest Democrat to consider challenging U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in his re-election bid next year.

French Henry said Wednesday that Democratic leaders "are reaching out to me to talk and discuss" the race.

"I've agreed to listen," she said. "But I have in no way, shape or form made a decision on that."

French Henry, the wife of former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, is the latest Democrat to consider taking on McConnell, the longest serving U.S. senator in Kentucky history.

Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes also is considering a run, as is former Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer, environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald, building contractor Ed Marksberry and musician Bennie J. Smith.

Actress Ashley Judd, a former Kentucky resident now living in Tennessee, had considered the race earlier this year but opted not to run.

French Henry, a Louisville clothing designer, said she has no time frame for making a decision. The filing deadline isn't until Jan. 28, 2014.

"Is there a political race in my future? Perhaps," French Henry said. "Is it this race? I'm not sure. This is going to be a big, national race. Am I ready to dive into that? I'm not sure."

The McConnell campaign declined to comment on French Henry as a potential challenger.

Republican Party of Kentucky spokeswoman Kesley Cooper said French Henry "has no applicable qualifications to run in one of the most important Senate races in the country."

Grimes, who became the Democrats' best hope after Judd bowed out, has been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to run for weeks. She said Wednesday she's continuing to give the race "the due diligence it deserves."

Grimes told reporters the interest from French Henry and others shows that Democrats are "united in their effort to bring new leadership to Washington D.C., to end the politics of personal destruction, obstructionist behavior and gridlock we've seen for the past 28 years." Grimes sidestepped a question about whether that increases pressure on her to speed up her decision about entering the race.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has been looking to recruit potential McConnell challengers. He warned recently that whoever takes on McConnell is going to face a tough task. The second-term governor described McConnell as a "no-holds-barred" campaigner who can raise far more campaign cash than his opponents.

Beshear ran against McConnell and lost in 1996. Some Democratic leaders have been urging Beshear to consider a rematch. But Beshear said he won't run.

McConnell, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1984 and is seeking a sixth term, has already raised nearly $13 million for his re-election campaign.

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.

McConnell has never lost an election. He spent more than $20 million in 2008 to beat Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford by 6 percentage points.

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