Actress Ashley Judd spoke to a ballroom of college students about public health on Friday afternoon, never directly addressing what she referred to as "elephant in the room" — a potential Senate bid against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
At a long-planned event at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Judd spoke for more than an hour about global women's health, gender equality and violence against women.
In recent weeks, Judd has sent increasingly clear signs that she is moving toward a Senate run. She reportedly met with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, had dinner in Louisville, Ky., with Democratic insiders and donors and has reached out to top state Democratic officials.
But in her speech to about 100 students, Judd's only references to her potential Senate run were oblique. One student asking a question said she was nervous.
"I'm a lot more nervous than y'all are, I promise," Judd replied. "I mean, there are people here who don't give a rat's you-know-what about public health."
Another student said, "My question is a little bit more domestically focused because I know you may be running for political office — but I'm not asking about that."
"Is there an elephant in the room?" Judd interjected to laughter from the audience.
Her presentation to a mostly-full ballroom was broadly biographical and she mentioned her family roots in Kentucky in the first few minutes of her speech. (An early attack from Republicans has focused on Judd’s residence in Tennessee.)
Judd's mother, Naomi, sat in the front row. About 15 journalists attended the event, including a C-SPAN crew which broadcast it live.
While a number of Bluegrass State Democrats have expressed concern about her potential negative effect downballot, there's a growing feeling in Kentucky Democratic circles that Judd will be their candidate.
"There is this sense in the air that Democrats are spoiling for a fight, 'let's sharpen the knives,'" said one plugged-in Kentucky Democrat. "Whoever it is [that's our candidate], let's do this."