By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Recent interest by some well-known Democrats in possibly running for U.S. Senate shows Kentucky Democrats will be united in their efforts to oust Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell next year, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Wednesday.
Grimes, who is often mentioned as many Democrats’ favorite to make the race, said she still is weighing whether to run. She revealed no timetable when her decision will be made.
“I’m continuing to give it due diligence,” she said.
Grimes’ comments to reporters came after she participated in a Capitol Rotunda ceremony to recognize successful small businesses across the state.
Former Miss America Heather French Henry of Louisville is the latest prominent Democrat to emerge as a possible candidate in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. She said Tuesday that public and private figures are encouraging her to run but she is “not ready to confirm or deny” that possibility.
Henry told the Lexington Herald-Leader last month that she had no plans to run, but she said this on Tuesday: “All this just landed in my lap recently. My life is so busy now, raising two girls who are 9 and 11, taking care of my fashion business and getting ready for a children’s book tour, I just don’t know. Maybe sometime in the future.”
Henry, who is married to former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, said a race against McConnell “would be huge. He is a formidable candidate.”
Miss America 2000, who was raised in Maysville, said she could support Grimes as the Democratic nominee. “She’s a good friend, and I think the world of her,” Heather Henry said. Both women have been involved in veterans’ issues.
The Kentucky Republican Party demonstrated Wednesday that Heather Henry would get hit with questions about her husband’s political career if she becomes a candidate.
“Heather French Henry is just the latest bottom of the barrel pick for Kentucky Democrats in their desperate search for a 2014 Senate race savior to replace their noncommittal star, Alison Lundergan Grimes,” Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for the state GOP, said in an email. “The fact that Democrats are encouraging someone with such egregious political baggage and no applicable qualifications to run in one of the most important Senate races in the country is a true indicator of their abysmal recruitment efforts.”
In December 2009, Steve Henry accepted a plea deal in Franklin Circuit Court for three misdemeanors related to misusing campaign resources during his failed 2007 run in the Democratic primary for governor.
In 2003, while he was lieutenant governor, Steve Henry agreed to pay $162,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging he defrauded the Medicaid and Medicare programs as an orthopedic surgeon.
After Henry’s 2000 marriage to French, the state auditor found that 25 state employees used 500 hours of their personal leave, valued at $16,000, to work on the wedding. The Henrys agreed to reimburse the state $3,200 for wedding expenses and $4,300 for trips that Steve Henry took to the Democratic National Convention and the Miss America Pageant.
Two other well-known state Democrats have recently expressed possible interest in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.
Former state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer, a Lexington attorney, said last week that he may run against McConnell next year if Grimes does not enter the race.
Environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald of Louisville expects to make a decision by the end of this month.
Two Democrats without a statewide following have said they will challenge McConnell next year: Owensboro contractor Ed Marksberry and Louisville musician and music promoter Bennie J. Smith.
Actress Ashley Judd had considered entering the race but announced in March that she would not challenge McConnell.
No Republican has emerged to challenge McConnell in a primary, though Tea Party activist David Adams of Jessamine County said last week that a Tea Party candidate will announce soon for the race.