FRANKFORT — A lot of Democrats in Kentucky and across the nation got an early dose of fireworks Monday when Alison Lundergan Grimes announced she will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014.
The 34-year-old attorney and first-term Democratic Secretary of State is viewed by Democrats as a formidable challenger because of her gender, youth, political enthusiasm and relatively short record.
She has been wooed by national and Kentucky Democrats as the woman who can end the 71-year-old McConnell’s three-decade old power grip on the state and the Senate seat.
Grimes made her announcement Monday after a two-hour meeting with supporters, including former governor Martha Layne Collins, former Governor and now state Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, Democratic fundraisers and several state lawmakers.
“I have met with my supporters,” Grimes told the group gathered in a building owned by her father, two-time Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan. At one side was her husband, Andrew, while Collins, Kentucky’s only female governor, stood on the other.
“We have had a great conversation and determined and decided we can next make the best move, make the best difference in the commonwealth of Kentucky by running for the U.S. Senate.”
Grimes has been seen as Democrats’ best hope since actress and activist Ashley Judd announced in March she would not run. But some Democrats had grown impatient with the long decision-making process, and Grimes had taken some criticism from the press for the same reason.
But she said Monday she was never frightened by the magnitude of a race against the Senate Minority Leader known for his well-financed and hard-hitting campaigns, instead deliberately “gathering all the facts about a decision that is not to be taken lightly.”
McConnell and groups supporting him have already run advertising critical of Grimes, lampooning the long decision-making process and linking her to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky and the target of McConnell’s speeches.