Words the coal industry doesn’t want to hear: Senator Ashley Judd
By Philip Bump
Here is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying something very stupid in late 2010:
That was his political priority for two years. It’s not clear that he currently has any political priorities; our attempts to reach out to his office didn’t happen.How does that priority compare with those of, say, Hollywood celebrity Ashley Judd? Well, here’s Judd speaking out against mountaintop-removal mining at the Kentucky state house.
Think Judd might make a better senator than McConnell? Well, so does she.
The Hollywood movie star and eighth-generation Kentuckian is seriously exploring a 2014 run for the Senate to take on the powerful Republican leader, four people familiar with the matter tell POLITICO. In recent weeks, Judd has spoken with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) about the possibility of a run, has discussed a potential bid with a Democratic pollster and has begun to conduct opposition research on herself to see where she’s most vulnerable in the Bluegrass State, sources say.
A Senate race would be an extremely steep hill to climb for Judd. Not only is McConnell deeply entrenched in the Washington establishment, but Judd is strongly progressive (see ThinkProgress’ overview of her credentials, including on climate change). Kentucky is … not. Romney won the state by 23 points — a wider spread than McCain’s 16 in 2008.
Worse for her political prospects, Judd’s anti-coal activism became a coal-country symbol of outside agitation against mining and, thanks to the ill-advised reference below, classism.
“I’m not too keen on reinforcing stereotypes about my people, but I don’t know a lot of hillbillies who golf,” Judd said in [a 2010] speech.
Those comments angered individuals associated with the mining industry and the golf courses built on former mine sites, like the StoneCrest Golf Club, where the sign was found.
“She’s not an eastern Kentuckian. A real eastern Kentuckian never would have degraded the people here by saying hillbillies don’t play golf,” David Gooch, president of the Coal Operator’s Association, told local TV station WKYT.
The Washington Post lists various celebrities who have tried — and failed — to seek high office previously. Most who won did so in unique circumstances: recalls, three-person races, etc.
One spot of good news for Judd: 2012 seems to have demonstrated that the “coal vote” is a bit of a paper tiger. Both Romney and Obama vied heavily for coal-producing areas in Ohio, and Obama emerged victorious.
And another: McConnell only won his 2008 reelection by six points — and he wasn’t running against a Hollywood celebrity who is married to a race car driver and who is part of a country music dynasty. And who loves dogs, for Pete’s sake.
One thing is for sure. If the campaign comes down to the ability to tell jokes, a professional actress has to do better than this:
And Ashley Judd now knows better than to joke about golf.
Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.