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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Actress Ashley Judd quashed months of speculation with a Twitter announcement that she would not run for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky in 2014.
Judd currently lives in Tennessee, was born in California, but considers herself a Kentucky native. Democrats, notably Louisville U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, had encouraged Judd to run and eventually challenge Republican incumbent and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.
Judd reportedly had met with top-level Democratic leaders in Washington and in Kentucky over the last few months. Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear was one of them. Judd had hinted last week she was nearing a decision on the race.
"After serious and thorough contemplation, I realize that my responsibilities & energy at this time need to be focused on my family," Judd said in her Tweet.
"Regretfully, I am currently unable to consider a campaign for the Senate. I have spoken to so many Kentuckians over these last few months who expressed their desire for a fighter for the people & new leader.
"While that won't be me at this time, I will continue to work as hard as I can to ensure the needs of Kentucky families are met by returning this Senate seat to whom it rightfully belongs: the people & their needs, dreams, and great potential. Thanks for even considering me as that person & know how much I love our Commonwealth," the Twitter message continues.
Judd sent it out just after 5 p.m. Wednesday. She said it would be posted to www.ashleyjudd.com on Wednesday evening.
Yarmuth spokesman Stephen George told WDRB News: "While he (Yarmuth) believed she would have been a strong candidate, he is confident that Kentucky Democrats will field a candidate just as strong to run against Senator McConnell, who is the least popular Senator in the country."
George said Yarmuth earlier this week spoke to Judd by phone and she expressed some reservation about entering the race.
He did not elaborate on their conversation.
Defeating McConnell would be the Democrats' biggest prize of the 2014 election.
His seat is one of 14 that Republicans are defending while Democrats try to hold onto 21. Democrats hope to retain or add to their 55-45 edge.
Speculation shifted Wednesday afternoon to Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. There were late reports she had spoken with top party strategists and was considering an exploratory committee.
Judd, known for liberal political views, would have been running in a largely conservative state where Republicans hold both Senate seats and five of the six seats in the U.S. House.
Former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, a Judd supporter, said she would have been a strong candidate.
"As a Kentuckian and someone who was really enthusiastic about her as a candidate, this wasn't the news I was hoping for," Miller said. "But as her friend, from the first time we talked about the race last summer, I was very candid about the grueling nature of politics. It's become a very unpleasant business and running against Mitch McConnell would be an extraordinarily difficult and grueling experience."
McConnell had already been taunting would-be Democratic challengers in a comical online video intended to raise second thoughts about taking on a politician known as brawler. The video plays on the fact that Judd lives in Tennessee.
Republican-leaning group American Crossroads in its own online video also plays on the Tennessee angle and ties her closely to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky.
Judd has starred in several movies including "Kiss the Girls" and "Dolphin Tale."
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