All the Latest News on Judd, McConnell, Paul, Grimes, Hemp…

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It’s been an exciting 24 hours at The Recovering Politician and its hot new email venture, the KY Political Brief.  We were almost first to break the news of Ashley Judd’s decision not to seek the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Mitch McConnell.  (Ashley Judd’s Twitter, of course, beat us by a few minutes.)  And Bradford Queen has yet again done an extraordinary job of sifting through the digital morass to identify the latest news on the 2014 U.S. Senate race, Rand Paul’s presidential ambitions, and the flurry of new laws passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in its waning minutes.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s KY Political Brief:

JUDD OUT : “I have decided,” she wrote in a tweet around 5 p.m. yesterday. Those were the words that tipped the political world to Ashley Judd’s announcement that she would not seek a McConnell challenge next year.

Actress Ashley Judd won’t run for US Senate – AP’s Roger Alford – “Actress Ashley Judd announced Wednesday she won’t run for U.S. Senate in Kentucky against Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, saying she had given serious thought to a campaign but decided her responsibilities and energy need to be focused on her family. … The 44-year-old Judd had hinted last week that she was nearing a decision about the race. Now living in suburban Nashville, Tenn., Judd has said little publicly about her intentions. However, she has been meeting with several Democratic leaders, including Gov. Steve Beshear, to discuss a possible run.” [AP]

ASHLEY WRITES, “Thank you”: “… It would be the greatest honor of my life to be entrusted as a public servant to our beloved Kentucky. Perhaps someday I will be. However, with the help of my pastors and mentors, I have thoughtfully and prayerfully concluded that I won’t run for the United States Senate at this time. I have never been intimidated by the prospect of serving Kentucky – and I remain unafraid of the Washington insider political machine that has controlled this Senate seat for three decades.” [AshleyJudd.com]

Will Ashley Judd Run in 2016? – ABC News – “Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is up for re-election in 2016 and per Kentucky law (unlike other states) a candidate cannot run for both Senate and president of the United States simultaneously. Paul is widely believed to be considering a 2016 presidential bid, but even if he does not, this same source says Judd has been counseled by both Washington, D.C., and Kentucky advisers that this is the better race for her to enter “in order to give her time to establish residency, secure the grassroots, and that is impossible with the current timetable.”” [ABC News]

The BACKSTORY: Jonathan Miller gives context to Ashley Judd’s decision on The Terry Meiners Show [WHAS]

AL MAYO, writing for KY Political Brief: “Not to say I told you so, but Judd is OUT. I applaud her action, and her promptness in making the announcement right away. She originally set Derby Day as the deadline. But I -along with many others-urged her not to drag things out that long. … Judd has made a good call in remaining sidelined as a candidate. … If Judd is truly serious about being considered for public office, she needs to get involved in local politics. It matters not where she gets involved, she should just do it! Ashley Judd has a powerful pulpit with her celebrity recognition, to inform, and enforce change no matter if it’s in Kentucky or Tennessee. To sit back and fire potshots randomly is a waste of that power and forum.” [KPB column]

FOCUS TURNS TO GRIMES : Ashley Judd will not run for Senate, Grimes to explore race – WHAS-TV’s Joe Arnold – “… Judd’s exit leaves the Democratic field open for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who had already spoken with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, according to sources familiar with the conversations. Grimes plans to file the paperwork for a exploratory campaign committee as early as next week, the sources said.” [WHAS-TV]

Grimes hasn’t made decision about Senate yet but needs to be ‘deliberative,’ consultant says – CN|2’s Ryan Alessi – “Grimes hasn’t ruled out running in 2014 for the chance to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. But she has repeatedly deflected questions about the race saying she was focused on working on her priorities in the 2013 state legislative session. The General Assembly ended Tuesday night. Dale Emmons, a political consultant who worked on Grimes’ 2011 campaign and is a close family friend of the Lundergans, said Judd’s announcement isn’t an indication that Grimes has made up her mind. “I don’t think there’s any connection between the two,” Emmons told Pure Politics after Judd’s announcement went public. “The good news is that this allows Alison to make any decision she’s going to make out of the fog” of having to be concerned about Judd’s plans.” [CN|2 Politics]

MORE SENATE DERBY : Mitch McConnell’s scorched-earth strategy – POLITICO – “Kentucky is the Bluegrass State, but by the time Mitch McConnell is done with his reelection campaign, it may be better known for scorched earth. The top Senate Republican is preparing to wage a ruthless campaign to hang on to his job. He’s already on the air with nearly $200,000 in TV and radio ads, is assembling streams of data to target voters with tailor-made messages, and has quietly moved to lock down support from virtually every state GOP legislator. He says he’ll use “every penny” of a war chest certain to exceed the $21 million he spent in 2008. … McConnell’s strategy is similar to recent efforts by Senate stalwarts Majority Leader Harry Reid and John McCain, who each won reelection with big fundraising numbers to discourage possible opponents and constant attack ads to discredit those who do run. … “My view is if you’re going to be a bigger target, you’re going to adopt different tactics,” McConnell told POLITICO in a wide-ranging interview this week before Judd dropped out. “I think we’ve made it pretty clear … that we intend to be very aggressive from Day One. And we are. And that involves not ignoring any potential opponent.”” [POLITICO]

Rand Paul endorses Mitch McConnell in 2014 Senate race, won’t back tea party challenge – The Daily Caller – “The Daily Caller has learned that Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is endorsing Sen. Mitch McConnell for re-election in 2014, ending speculation that Paul would back a tea party challenge to the Senate minority leader. “Rand Paul has endorsed McConnell,” Jesse Benton, McConnell’s 2014 campaign manager, told The Daily Caller. Benton, who has worked for both Rand Paul and his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, is credited by insiders with brokering Paul’s support for McConnell.” [Daily Caller]

McConnell campaign launches new radio ad using pieces of his CPAC speech [CN|2 Politics]

‘RAND PAUL 2016’ WATCH : Paul says he won’t make decision on presidential bid this year – C-J’s Mike Wynn – “Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that he will not decide on a potential bid for the U.S. presidency until at least 2014 and described his recent high-profile appearances as only an attempt to steer the national debate on important issues. … Paul is also scheduled as the headline speaker at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Day Dinner in May — an appearance that previous GOP candidates have used before launching a campaign. He told reporters he can’t deny that politicians like to speak in Iowa because it garners attention, but argued that “if you want to have an impact on how the Republican Party grows, and what the country does and where we go, going to Iowa is a very important place.” Paul has indicated that he is considering a run for president in 2016.” [C-J]

MEANWHILE, BACK IN FRANKFORT it appears a special session has been avoided.

Legislature dropped tax reform, killed telephone, scholarship bills – H-L’s Jack Brammer and Beth Musgrave – “Legislative leaders on Wednesday praised the work of the General Assembly and said that a special legislative session was not needed this year. … Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, described the session as “fairly successful” in that it “handled several large pieces of legislation.” … Both House and Senate leaders said Wednesday that there was little will to tackle tax reform this year. Beshear established a task force last summer that came up with dozens of recommendations to tweak the tax code that would generate upwards of $700 million. … House Bill 160, a proposal to use coal severance money to finance scholarships for college juniors and seniors from coal-producing counties, had appeared to be on track to pass late Tuesday but time ran out before the bill was acted upon by the House. … Senate Bill 88, a telephone deregulation bill that was pushed by AT&T, died in a House committee after being approved in the Senate.” [H-L]

Hemp lobby waiting on Beshear to sign bill, ready for Washington – H-L’s Janet Patton – “Supporters of growing hemp on Wednesday cheered the General Assembly’s last-hour passage of a bill to license Kentucky farmers. And they made plans to take to Washington their case that industrial hemp should be legal. After a speech in Lexington, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, said he’s “very excited” about the hemp bill and Kentucky’s chances for a waiver to grow it. … Paul said he would ask the governor to join him in requesting the waiver. Beshear “is going to review the bill and talk with law enforcement before making any decision,” Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said Wednesday. Paul will lobby in Washington with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. … Former Kentucky Treasurer Jonathan Miller will act as liaison to the White House for the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, of which Comer and Miller are members. Comer is currently the chairman but will step down to vice chairman with the new legislation.” [H-L]

Good stuff? Be sure to subscribe to The Recovering Politician‘s KY Political Brief: click here RIGHT NOW to do so — It’s delivered daily to your inbox FOR FREE!

And speaking of good stuff, here’s the clip of my appearance today on CBS This Morning:

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