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Lower Tier Candidates May Cause Problems for Democrats in US Senate Race

The Kentuckiana Wedding Planner

Now it's Heather French Henry's turn.

The former Miss America has joined a list of half a dozen party activists or leaders waiting for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to decide whether she'll run in 2014 against Mitch McConnell for his U.S. Senate seat. 

If Grimes runs, she's likely to get enough support to clear out the field. Otherwise, the Democrats have potential candidates known within political circles, but who may be not instantly recognizable with the majority of voters—former state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gorman or environmental activist Tom FitzGerald, for example.

Without Grimes, Democrats may find themselves with a crowded primary—and that would cause problems in a bid to unseat McConnell, who polls suggest is vulnerable, according to Dewey Clayton, a political scientist for the University of Louisville.

"Oftentimes when you have a very crowded field one candidate may emerge with not actually a majority of the vote but a plurality," Clayton said.

A Democratic nominee who lacks majority support would have difficulty overcoming McConnell.

Clayton said that since actress Ashley Judd took herself out of the race earlier this year, Democrats have struggled to get a candidate.

"But since then no one has sort of filled that void and at some point someone is going to need to step forward," Clayton said.

Republicans have frequently mocked Democrats for failing to find a candidate, claiming the party has had almost a dozen candidates turn them down. 

Clayton said the less prominent candidates talking about running fuels that narrative.

But, he added, Democrats still have some time to find a viable candidate.

Kenny Colston is the Frankfort Bureau Chief for Kentucky Public Radio (a collaborative effort of public radio stations in Kentucky). Colston has covered Kentucky's Capitol and state government since 2010. He is a Louisville native, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. When he's not tracking down stories about Kentucky politics, you can often find him watching college sports, particularly football.
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