Actress Ashley Judd is not running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky next year

The actress writes via Twitter:

Judd had been tip-toeing towards running after meeting with Democratic donors and courting officials.

The announcement was a gut punch for many Judd supporters who argued that despite her liberal views Judd would bring national attention and money to Kentucky.

None more than Congressman John Yarmuth, who had been the Hollywood star’s chief cheerleader. Speaking of Judd’s Democratic critics, Yarmuth told WFPL they would “be very embarrassed and have to eat a lot of crow ” once she entered the race.

“Congressman Yarmuth has said all along that he would be surprised if Ashley Judd did not run, and he’s certainly surprised,” says Yarmuth spokesman Stephen George. “She appeared to be making all the moves that someone would if they were setting up a campaign of the size and scope it would take to challenge Senator McConnell.”

Former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Jonathan Miller told WHAS-11 Judd apologized personally for passing on the Senate race during their conversation.

Judd did share “reservations” about running in a conversation with Yarmuth earlier this week, however, the liberal Democrat still believed she was intending to make a bid in 2014.

“I think the congressman is disappointed that she’s not running because he clearly believed Ashley Judd would run a strong campaign against Senator McConnell. But that said, I think they’re going to be—I think a strong candidate will emerge to challenge McConnell. This is a premier race,” says George.

Strategists now point to Democratic Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes as the lead candidate. 

But jabs that Grimes is an “untested” and “inexperienced” candidate have already begun as GOP observers note high-profiled Democrats have turned down a chance to take on Kentucky’s senior senator.

“I count more than 10 prominent Democrat who have all said no to the race,” says Republican strategist Scott Jennings. “What’s interesting is the most likely candidates and most formidable candidates have all now backed away for one reason or another. It seems to me one of the things happening in Kentucky is nobody seems to want to take on Mitch McConnell.”

Joseph Lord contributed to this story.