Declaring that Senate Minority Leader Mitch Mc- Connell has “lost touch” with Kentucky voters, the state’s 34-year-old secretary of state announced this week that she would seek to unseat him in 2014, ending a long search by Democrats for a competitive challenger to the deep-pocketed, fiveterm Republican.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who had been touted as the Democrats’ best hope of defeating McConnell, began seriously considering the race after actress Ashley Judd opted out in March.
Grimes, a lawyer from a well-connected Kentucky family who was first elected in 2011, launched her bid with tough words for the 71-year-old McConnell, the longest-serving U.S. senator in state history.
“I agree with thousands of Kentuckians that Kentucky is tired of 28 years of obstruction, that Kentucky is tired of someone who has voted against raising the minimum wage while all the while quadrupling his own net worth,” Grimes told reporters
Monday. “Kentucky is tired of a senior senator that has lost touch with Kentucky issues, voters and their values.”
McConnell, who has already raised some $13 million for his re-election bid and is known for running bare-knuckled campaigns, released a statement saying he looks forward to “a respectful exchange of ideas” with Grimes. The senator described her as President Barack Obama’s Kentucky candidate.
“The next sixteen months will provide a great opportunity for Kentuckians to contrast a liberal agenda that promotes a war on coal families and governmentrationed health care with someone who works every day to protect Kentuckians from those bad ideas,” Mc- Connell said. “ Together we’ve invested a lot to ensure that Kentucky’s voice in the U.S. Senate is heard from the front of the line rather than the back-bench and I intend to earn the support to keep it there.”
Polls have shown McConnell’s favorability lacking in Kentucky, making him vulnerable to a Democratic challenger.
Grimes, whose father once headed the state Democratic party, received 61 percent of the vote when she was elected two years ago. Her campaign included a folksy TV ad that featured her grandmothers.
Former Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer and Kentucky environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald were also weighing the 2014 Senate race on the Democratic side, but had said they would run only if Grimes didn’t. Former Miss America Heather French Henry, who had expressed an interest, said Monday she won’t run, either.
Three longshot Democrats already have declared their intentions to run.
Grimes became the likely contender after Judd bowed out in March.