Kentucky’s lone Democratic congressman says he is confident the party will find an opponent to defeat Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, but adds Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes needs to make a decision.
The GOP is beginning to gloat that Democrats cannot find a suitable challenger willing to take on McConnell next year.
Grimes is considered the top contender in the field and she met with Governor Steve Beshear last week to discuss the race. But Grimes was still “wrestling” with the idea of running for Senate after sitting down with the governor.
Observers are beginning to question if the race is beyond Democrat’s reach despite McConnell’s unpopularity. The GOP leader has a $13.5 million head start and the political rumor mill is beginning to move on to former Miss America Heather French Henry, who is now reportedly being encouraged to run.
In an exclusive WFPL interview, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth says Grimes needs to let whatever those plans are known before the summer or risk hurting the party.
“I do think that it is important that Alison Grimes immediately decide whether she’s running or not because there are a number of people sitting on the sidelines who would be interested I think in making a race who are waiting to find out what she does. And for her to keep prolonging this as she said possibly until the late summer I think is a disservice to the party,” he says.
Owensboro businessman Ed Marksberry and Louisville music promoter Bennie J. Smith have said they are running, but neither have received much attention from the party. Other interested challengers include environmentalist Tom FitzGerald, who told the radio station a few weeks ago he was planning to meet with Grimes to discuss her intentions.
Pushing back against the constant questioning, Grimes has said she she won’t be “bullied” into running and is still considering.
A Kentucky political consultant who is in Grimes’s inner circle told WFPL recently that a decision could be made by the end of May, but no timeline has been established.
“The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is putting the full court press on Alison to run,” says a Grimes adviser, who adds more than five sitting Democratic senators have contact Grimes recently. “We know McConnell is vulnerable, but is he beatable? And what people who have run for this race have suggested is she get everything in line. And if Alison’s going to get in she’s going to make sure she has the support it takes.”
This same source says major party donors have contacted Grimes in the past week and have pledged to make her their “top priority” in 2014 if she runs against McConnell. In the meantime, Grimes has been meeting with family and Kentucky supporters from her 2011 bid to gauge their commitment.
“There’s still a fairly, good amount of time between now and the race,” says a Grimes adviser. “There are openings and this deserves a sober look. Whether it’s a race for United States Senate or (Kentucky) attorney general or secretary of state, Alison is going to be running for something.”
Those urging Grimes to announce now rather than later believe that like actress Ashley Judd, the first-term secretary of state is holding up other candidates. And Yarmuth’s public push could be a sign Democrats are growing tiresome.
“I think she has to say she’s in or out, because again there are other people who would seriously consider the race and they’re waiting to hear on her,” says Yarmuth. “So I think it’s incumbent on her to make a decision within the next few weeks.”