Mitch McConnell Could Easily Be Caught In A Horse Race As He Watches His Red State Turn Bluer

Judd Grimes

Alison Lundergan Grimes and Ashley Judd.

Kentucky politics are going to be really busy in the next 36 months. A Senate race in 2014 which has incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell facing a cadre of candidates wanting a piece of him. The “off” year of 2015 has the Kentucky governor’s race and, in 2016, freshman firebrand and Tea Party darling, Rand Paul, is up for re-election.

And it all starts in just over a month. Each state has its own unofficial start to the next election. Kentucky is no different and it has real starting gates intertwined into the process…The Kentucky Derby, first Saturday in May. And yes, the horse racing metaphor will be prevalent as we begin to look at the starters, their odds, their breeding and, most important, their chances to be first across the line. Unlike horse racing, however there is only Winning, no Place or Show. In the next 36 months, however, we will provide one electric Trifecta. Don’t say I didn’t warn y’all.

The good news for Kentuckians, and, by extension, the rest of the nation, is there are plenty of good people on the Democratic side of the aisle who are both interested and capable. It is helped further by a Republican Party which not only lost the previous governor’s race in 2011, but the “future” of the party, Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer has just been handed 42 ethics violations by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

The first out of the gate is Ashley Judd; well, that’s not exactly true. A paddock full of supporters have been, since the 2012 election, trying to draft her to run against McConnell but, to date, she has not announced anything publicly. Judd brings much to the table in a race that is going to be as hard, expensive, and bare knuckled as the run to Ditch Mitch. She brings name recognition, no negatives [excepting the nude scenes she has done in movies], intelligence, and the potential for national money. She is also thirty years younger than the 71-year-old leader of the Party of No, Mitch McConnell, and importantly, she is not an angry, old, establishment white guy.

Bill Clinton weighed in with the recommendation that Alison Lundergan Grimes step up. She is currently the Secretary of State in Kentucky and the daughter of long time politico, Jerry Lundergan, former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. Clinton met with Grimes earlier this year and discussed her options for senate, governor and the 6th District congressional seat which Ben Chandler lost last fall. All opinions suggest she would make a very good, strong candidate.

Former State Auditor of Public Accounts, Crit Luallen, is also considered a potential candidate to face McConnell but publicly states she has her eyes on the governor’s race in 2015. Luallen was considered a very popular front-runner to face McConnell in 2008 but chose to remain auditor.

There are other players in the state Democratic party. Former Louisville mayor and current Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson and current Louisville mayor Greg Fischer are also considered “interested,” though many suggest they are more likely to step up in the 2015 governor’s race.

Two men who have spent time in Washington, former Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler and current Third District congressman John Yarmuth are also in play in one of the three upcoming races.

The two potential candidates who are odds-on favorites right now are Judd and Grimes. In the next six weeks those who are making the odds will have a better picture of who will enter the race and who has the most support. Right now Ashley Judd has social media on her side but the establishment Democratic party is looking at a more experienced, connected Alison Grimes. This is the race to watch.

Mitch McConnell has problems. He is the least-liked senator in the Senate. His popularity in his home state of Kentucky is just 37%. 55% of Kentucky voters disapprove of him, according to PPP. And all of the disapproval is not coming from Democrats. It looks like, for the first time in a quarter of a century, McConnell will likely face a challenger in the Republican primary from the Tea Party. United Kentucky Tea Party spokesman, John T. Kemper III of Lexington, says “we are working on a battle plan with the ultimate goal to retire him next year.”

Even the out-of-state Texas SuperPAC Liberty for All, which spend $700,000 to influence the Fourth Congressional District race in 2012, has made a pledge:

“Should the right candidate emerge — be they Republican, Democrat, or Independent — Liberty For All will remain committed to electing those dedicated to more civil liberties, more economic freedom, and freeing America from corporate influence,” said spokesman Preston Bates.

Liberty For All is funded by John Ramsey, a Texas college student with a large inheritance.

And speaking of SuperPACs, right-wing favorite, Karl Rove, and his American Crossroads has already spent money in the Kentucky race, 18 months before a single voter gets to the booth, targeting an ad against Ashley Judd…who isn’t even announced yet.

So, watch as the candidates cinch up their girth, get a firm hold on the whip, and tighten up on the reins…this is going to be one exciting horse race.


McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resided in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip