Rand Paul slams Ashley Judd as too liberal for Kentucky. Is he right?

Actress/activist Ashley Judd has adopted causes that, however worthy, are national as opposed to Kentuckian in scope. Sen. Rand Paul (R) talked about her activism in a radio interview Wednesday.

John Wright/The Paducah Sun/AP/File
Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky is shown through the blue glow reflecting from stage light framing as he hosts a town hall meeting, in Murray, Ky, in this January file photo. He talked about Actress/activist Ashley Judd's activism in a radio interview Wednesday.

Is actress/activist Ashley Judd positioned too far to the political left to get elected as a senator for Kentucky? That’s the charge one of her potential political opponents is making. Sitting Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, in a radio interview Wednesday, said that Ms. Judd is “way too ... liberal for our country” and lives much of the time in the United Kingdom with her Scottish husband, race-car driver Dario Franchitti.

“I heard she lives in Scotland; I thought she was running for Parliament,” Senator Paul joked during his WMAL appearance.

He went on to point out that Judd has long opposed mountaintop-removal coal extraction, in which summit ridges are scraped off to allow easy access to coal seams beneath. Environmentalists say this method is polluting and destructive, but it is widespread in Appalachia, where mining is an economic mainstay.

“She hates our biggest industry, which is coal, so I say, good luck bringing the ‘I hate coal’ message to Kentucky,” Paul said.

In terms of the politics here, Paul has a point. Whether she’s too liberal for Kentucky may be an open question: Lots of Kentuckians don’t like their mountaintops ripped up, either. But her political involvement to this point has certainly focused on national issues as opposed to state concerns. That can be a problem in statewide elections.

Even incumbents get into trouble when voters think they’ve lost touch with home concerns. Remember Richard Lugar? He’s the most senior Republican in the Senate, or was. He got beat in 2012’s GOP primary, partly because of perceptions that he’d gone native in D.C.

Judd’s spoken out on a long list of causes that, however worthy, are national as opposed to Kentuckian in scope. She’s big on protecting young women against sex trafficking, for instance. She’s been a global ambassador for YouthAIDS, a group dedicated to raising awareness of this scourge among those ages 15 to 24.

She’s filmed public-service announcements for World Malaria Day and abortion-rights groups.

Yes, Paul isn’t exactly focused like a laser on local issues, either. He’s the emerging voice of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. But prior to running for the Senate in 2010, he’d been head of a state antitax group, the Kentucky Taxpayers United, for decades.

As we recently pointed out, Judd is also involved in state-level politics – but not in Kentucky. She was a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention from the Volunteer State, and she read out Tennessee’s vote totals during the roll call.

During that mini-speech, she spoke proudly about her adopted home: At the moment, she lives on a Tennessee farm when she’s not in Scotland. She promoted it as “home of former Vice President Al Gore,” among other things. We’re pretty sure that clips of this speech might find their way into GOP attack ads if she does decide to run for the Kentucky Senate seat.

To sum up, if she wants to jump into electoral politics, Judd’s got to do some bridge-building back in the state where she grew up and her family has deep roots. She’s getting talked up as an opponent for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, but if she decides she needs more time, she could run against Paul in 2016.

Some conservatives have another suggestion for someone they paint as a Hollywood liberal.

“Maybe Judd should think about running in California,” writes Ed Morrissey on the right-leaning Hot Air website. “She could hardly be worse than Barbara Boxer.”

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