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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

No Ashley Judd for Senate? No big deal


Ashley Judd, actress and activist, after months of speculation and a lot of conversations with political consultants and pollsters, tweeted out her intentions this week.

She will not be a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014. The Kentucky Democratic Party will have to find someone else to take on Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

So much for that. That political bubble burst pretty quickly.

Democratic party leaders in Kentucky did not appear to be shedding any tears.

A Kentucky candidate who lives in the suburbs of Nashville, whose grandmother called her a “Hollywood liberal.” Winning a race in red state Kentucky?

The Karl Rove Super PAC machine and the Kentucky GOP were licking their chops over that prospect – even if McConnell is seen by many voters as being more than a little aloof and out of touch with his home state.

The junior senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, is clearly the flavor of the month for Kentucky Republicans.
Some Kentucky Democrats say they are just fine with Judd’s decision.

“Overall, it’s a good thing,’’ said Paul Whalen, chairman of the Campbell County Democratic Party. “I think, in the end, she wasn’t willing to go after McConnell, the way he would most certainly go after her.”

Eighteen months of close-to-the-ground, flesh-pressing, retail politics was probably not something Judd was willing to do. And that is what it would take to beat McConnell in a state where Barack Obama took only 38 percent of the vote last fall.

Judd, Whalen said, “would have had to do something like Al Franken did in Minnesota and move back into the state. It worked for Franken. Would it work for Ashley Judd? I don’t know.”

So, if not Judd, who?

The answer, most likely, is Kentucky’s secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes. She is a 34-year-old Maysville native who won election to the secretary of state office in 2011 and is the daughter of former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan.

She’s been crisscrossing the state, talking to groups from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, both in her official capacity and as a leading figure in Kentucky Democratic politics. Thursday night, she was in Dry Ridge talking to a roomful of Democrats at a local restaurant.

And, as Whalen said, “she is the type who wouldn’t hesitate to take it to Mitch McConnell.”

Some Democrats feared that if Judd were their candidate, McConnell and the GOP would make the campaign about her. They want a campaign that is about Mitch McConnell and whether or not he represents the people of Kentucky well – and a judgment on his tenure as leader of the Senate Republicans.

Grimes has another advantage – she is a personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton; and they would most certainly be in and out of Kentucky helping her raise money – and she would need a lot of it to knock off an incumbent U.S. senator.

Grimes hasn’t said she will run, but speculation continues and she hasn’t done anything to dampen it.
There are other potential candidates out there – former congressman Ben Chandler and state auditor Adam Edelen, to name two.

But Grimes is the subject of most of the speculation.

Whalen said he believes Grimes has what it takes for a Senate run.

“A lot more people in Kentucky know Alison Grimes personally than know Mitch McConnell,’’ Whalen said. “And that counts for something.”


Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.