Henry: 'Key' Democrats approached her about Senate bid


by Joe Arnold


Posted on May 22, 2013 at 4:37 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 22 at 11:21 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky (WHAS11) -- As Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes contemplates a U.S. Senate run against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), key players in the Kentucky
Democratic Party have approached another potential candidate, Heather French Henry, about entering the race, Henry told WHAS11 on Wednesday.

Henry, a Louisville-based fashion designer, was crowned Miss America 2000 in 1999.  She married then Lt. Gov. Steve Henry (D-Ky) in 2000.  The couple has two daughters.

The Maysville native has maintained her pageant platform as an advocate for U.S. military veterans.

In an interview with WHAS11, Henry said she believes she has a political future, yet has to determine whether a race against McConnell, known for tough campaigning, is "the one to cut my
teeth on."

"I agreed to listen and hear people out," about the Senate race, Henry told WHAS11, adding that "not just key players in the party" had encouraged her to consider the 2014 election, "but normal people too."

"I have a lot to say and a lot to talk about," Henry said, expressing disdain for the current atmosphere in politics.

Henry said she admires Grimes.  The two shared a common cause in the passage of Senate Bill 1, a measure aimed at ensuring that members of the military have adequate access to the voting

"Heather French Henry was very instrumental in our efforts to move Senate Bill 1 through both the House and Senate chambers," Grimes said.  "And I am very appreciative of her work and
assistance with our veterans across Kentucky."

WHAS11 asked Grimes if she or Henry would drop out of contention if the other entered the race.

"Again, that's a premature statement at this point," Grimes responded.  "I'm giving it the due diligence that it's deserved."

At a ceremonial signing of the bill in April, reporters focused on Grimes' role as a potential candidate.  Henry said while she was at the capitol for the ceremony, she was approached about
the race.

Henry said she had not spoken to Grimes in "about a week," but hoped to make contact, soon.

"The last thing I want to do is enter a crowded field," Henry told WHAS11.  "It might elicit a call to Grimes to see what her intentions are."

That's what Kentucky Democrats across the state are also anxious to hear. 

After a small business awards ceremony in the capitol rotunda, Grimes told reporters she had not yet decided whether she will enter the race.

"I'm continuing to talk to my supporters all across this state and giving it the due diligence, again, it deserves," Grimes said.

Grimes is the only candidate to be contacted by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, sources have told WHAS11 News.  Actress Ashley Judd, a former Ashland resident now living in Tennessee, had considered the race but opted not to run in March.

Other Democrats who have expressed an interest in challenging McConnell are Owensboro contractor Ed Marksberry, Louisville music producer Bennie Smith, Louisville environmentalist Tom
FitzGerald and Lexington attorney Bill Garmer, the former chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

"I believe that their comments demonstrate that Kentuckians, especially Democrats, will be united in their effort to bring new leadership to Washington DC," Grimes said, "to end the politics of personal destruction, obstructionist behavior and gridlock that we have seen for the past 28 years."

"They're scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one," said Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky.

"I think that's it's showing an act of desperation. they're throwing anyone they can forward. They're waiting for Alison Lundergan Grimes to announce her candidacy and she hasn't yet.  And so, now they're throwing all these people forward."
Dan Logsdon, the Chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said it's Republicans who are desperate because McConnell has dismal job approval ratings in Kentucky.

Logsdon said he is confident Democrats will field a competitive candidate.

"Every day that goes by without a candidate is a day they are losing in terms of fundraising, in terms of gaining support," Cooper said.

Steve Henry has faced several controversies, including allegations he misused resources during his failed 2007 gubernatorial campaign and, as an orthopedic surgeon, committed Medicaid and Medicare fraud.

After an audit concluded that state employees improperly used 500 hours of their personal leave on the Henrys' much-publicized wedding in Louisville, the couple reimbursed the state several thousand dollars.  They also repaid the state for trips taken by Heather French Henry.

"The fact that Democrats are encouraging someone with such egregious political baggage and no applicable qualifications to run in one of the most important senate races in the country is a true indicator of their abysmal recruitment efforts," Cooper said.

Henry acknowledged that McConnell helped launch her Miss America campaign by hosting a platform lunch and news conference with then U.S. Senators Jim Bunning (R-Ky) and Trent Lott (R-TN).