Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) announced Monday that she will challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Bluegrass State’s 2014 Senate election, setting up what promises to be a high-profile and hotly contested election.
Grimes, who was elected as Secretary of State with over 60 percent of the vote in 2011, was widely considered the Democrats’ top candidate for the seat once actress and activist Ashley Judd decided not to enter the race. Several prominent Democrats — including, reportedly, former president Bill Clinton — actively recruited her to take on McConnell.
In a brief press conference Monday, Grimes declared her intention to run, and slammed McConnell’s long tenure in the Senate. “Kentucky is tired of 28 years of obstruction. Kentucky is tired of someone who has voted against raising the minimum wage while all the while quadrupling his own net worth. Kentucky is tired of a senior senator that has lost touch with Kentucky issues, voters, and their values,” Grimes said.
According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey, Grimes will begin the race in a virtual deadlock with the unpopular McConnell. Despite Kentucky’s strong rightward lean, the poll found that just 44 percent approve of McConnell’s job performance, making him one of the least popular senators in America. The poll also found that 34 percent viewed Grimes favorably, while 42 percent had no opinion on her — suggesting that the tight race is more a function of McConnell’s unpopularity than anything else.
Still, McConnell must be considered the favorite to retain his seat. The five-term senator will benefit from a massive fundraising network, the advantages of incumbency, and the Republican Party’s strong registration advantage in Ketucky (a state that Mitt Romney won by over 20 percent in 2012).