FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Actress Ashley Judd gave a not-so-subtle hint on Friday that she's nearing a decision about seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.
In a speech at an American Counseling Association meeting in Cincinnati, Judd said she once didn't like criticism, which she said is ironic because she's "about to get $40 million worth of it." WXIX-TV first reported Judd's comments Friday.
The Cincinnati station said Judd also told the group that her mother, country music star Naomi Judd, can't wait to turn her garage into a campaign headquarters.
"I can't say if she's made up her mind, because I don't know that, but I can absolutely tell you that she's very seriously considering it," said former Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, a friend and supporter of Judd's.
No cameras were allowed at the speech.
Judd is a former Kentucky resident now living in suburban Nashville, Tenn. She has been largely mum about her intentions concerning the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. She has been meeting with several Democratic leaders, including Gov. Steve Beshear, to discuss a possible run, but her comments in Cincinnati seemed to be her first clear indication that she is getting closer to a decision.
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, hoping to retain or add to their 55-45 edge.
The 71-year-old McConnell has already begun TV advertising even though the general election is more than 18 months away.
McConnell has a hefty campaign bank account, having already raised more than $10 million. In his last campaign finance report, he reported having $7.4 million on hand. That financial cushion gives McConnell the option to define himself early in TV spots or to respond to opponents.
McConnell is hoping to scare off potential contenders with his fundraising prowess. The strategy seems to be working, so far. No serious Republican opponent has emerged, though a coalition of Kentucky tea party groups said Friday that members expect to settle on a primary challenger by June 1. Democrats haven't fielded a serious candidate yet, though Judd and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes both have been mentioned as potential McConnell opponents.
Grimes has said she won't consider getting into the race until after the state Legislature adjourns for the year. And though Judd appears to be getting closer to a decision, she would have to re-establish a residence in Kentucky to mount a serious challenge.
"Senator McConnell remains a big fan of Ashley Judd's movies, and will concentrate on an opponent when one finally files," campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement Friday. "In the meantime, we are focused on building a topnotch campaign that will make Kentucky proud."
McConnell, first elected to the Senate in 1984, is a resilient politician with an unbroken string of victories and a reputation of pummeling opponents.
Judd spoke to more than 3,100 counselors in Cincinnati, talking about her depression, codependency and unresolved childhood grief.
"A parent never wakes up and says, 'Today is a great day to screw up my child,'" she was quoted as saying in a press release from the American Counseling Association. "My parents loved me very much and they were doing the best they could."
Judd told the counselors that she suffered from such deep depression in 1996 and in 2006 that she entered a 42-day residential treatment facility.
"It's too late for me to have a happy childhood, but not too late to carry a message of hope to those who are still sick and striving for the peace, serenity and surrender that is recovery," she said.