Actress Ashley Judd is moving closer to a challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meeting in recent days with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic donors and strategists in Kentucky to discuss a potential run.
A source familiar with the meeting confirmed to The Hill that she met with the Democrats' campaign arm earlier this week. The DSCC declined to comment on recruitment, but it's an early indication that Judd is taking the necessary steps to challenge McConnell.
Judd joined nine others at the dinner, including Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who has been vocal in his support of the actress, and former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Jonathan Miller.
According to a person familiar with the meeting, it offered the opportunity for potential supporters to ask questions and offer concerns about Judd's interest in the race. Judd said at the meeting she would make a decision by May 6, on the day of the Kentucky Derby.
She is also seeking out advice from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) about the race, and has invited McCaskill to join her at an upcoming University of Kentucky basketball game.
Judd has previously expressed interest in the race, but until now there were few indications she was making the necessary preparations to launch a bid.
And some Democrats in the state remain skeptical of her potential candidacy. They've expressed concern that she wouldn't be the strongest contender against McConnell because, though she grew up in Kentucky, she currently lives in Tennessee, and because she was a vocal and active supporter of President Obama during his campaign — a fact that some worry would make it easy for McConnell to nationalize the race, and in doing so hamper support for downballot candidates.
However, a recent poll from Republican firm Harper Polling put her only nine percentage points behind McConnell, and she would have the personal wealth needed to take on the deep-pocketed incumbent, who currently has more than $7 million in his campaign coffers.
And at least one GOP group is taking her candidacy seriously. American Crossroads, the super-PAC backed by Karl Rove, launched an ad mocking her as a "radical Hollywood liberal." McConnell's campaign, too, included her in its first paid ad of the cycle, which framed her as one of "Obama's Democrats."