WASHINGTON — Liberal activist and actress Ashley Judd acknowledged Friday the speculation that she might run for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky but gave no indication of her future plans during a speech at George Washington University.
“Is there an elephant in the room?” Judd cracked during the event Friday afternoon.
After the address, she was mum as reporters asked her about the race, including a shouted question from The Daily Caller about whether her past liberal comments could hurt her in an election in conservative Kentucky.
“I appreciate your interest in public health,” Judd said as she left the auditorium in the heart of downtown Washington on Friday afternoon.
The topic of her Friday address was “Progress and Perspectives: Women’s Reproductive Health, a conversation with Ashley Judd.”
The event — sponsored by the George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services — had the feel of a tightly controlled political event. While she revealed nothing new about her Senate intentions, she clearly knew that she would get coverage by the national media for simply showing up to an event here.
Organizers, however, did their best to keep the media at a safe distance: they told reporters that they could not ask Judd questions during the event and would not have access to her afterward. Signs reading, “No press beyond this point” were posted to keep reporters away from the stage.
About a hundred people or more — mostly college aged — showed up to the event. During her remarks, she touched on her Hollywood career and topics like breast feeding, “gender violence” and abortion.
Judd spoke for about 25 minutes and then took questions from students. She drew laughs at the outset when she said, “I can’t wait to hear from the college Republicans.”
During the questioning, Judd was not asked to address her more controversial statements that could be problematic in a Senate campaign. But she appeared to acknowledge those in attendance to hear whether she would reveal anything about her political ambitions.
“I am way more nervous than y’all are. I promise,” she told one questioner. “There are people here who don’t give a rat’s you-know-what about public health.”
Following her remarks, national Republicans immediately pounced.
“Kentucky Democrats are terrified by Ms. Judd’s extreme views and her Tennessee residence and many of them predict a down-ballot catastrophe if she runs,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring said in an email to The Daily Caller. “After hearing today that Ms. Judd ‘winters in Scotland,’ looks like they’re spot on.”
TheDC reported earlier this week about some of the baggage she would bring with her into a Senate campaign, mostly in the form of statements that would likely not go over well with the conservative-leaning voters of Kentucky.
Among those statements: Judd has said that it is “unconscionable to breed” while there are so many starving children in the world. She has also criticized the tradition of fathers “giving away” their daughters at weddings, has compared mountaintop removal mining to the Rwandan genocide and characterized Christianity as a religion that “legitimizes and seals male power.”
Another problem she would likely face in a campaign is the fact that she currently lives in Tennessee, not Kentucky.
While a number of Democrats in Kentucky have recently expressed low enthusiasm for a Judd candidacy, the only Democrat from the state in the House of Representatives predicted this week that she would get in the race. Judd has reportedly met with officials from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, an organization which helps recruit Democratic candidates.
“I would be surprised if she doesn’t run at this point,” Rep. John Yarmuth told ABC News.