Heather French Henry: Could She Stand Against Mitch McConnell In Kentucky's Senate Race?


The search for a Democratic challenger to Senator Mitch McConnell in Kentucky has taken continuously strange twists. First, actress Ashley Judd explored a possible run, but later backed down. Now, former Miss America Heather French Henry is being pushed by the Democratic establishment to run, though she is uncomfortable with public criticism – an odd trait for someone considering running for a high-profile public office.

Henry, the latest test-candidate for Senate, attacked the Republican Party of Kentucky “for calling her the latest ‘bottom-of-the-barrel pick’ for the Senate race.” In an email, Kelsey Cooper, KY GOP spokeswoman, said "Henry is just the latest bottom-of-the-barrel pick for Kentucky Democrats in their desperate search for a 2014 Senate race savior to replace their noncommittal star, Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

Cooper went on to point out "the fact that Democrats are encouraging someone with such egregious political baggage and no applicable qualifications to run in one of the most important Senate races in the country is a true indicator of their abysmal recruitment efforts." Democrats have been having recruiting problems for Senate lately.

Heather French Henry has confirmed that “Democrats have approached her about running.” She is not the only potential candidate, but it does seem as though Democrats are watching to see how she would fare if run against McConnell. Between Judd’s consideration and now Henry’s, it is obvious that the Democrats believe relying on star power will be a fruitful strategy.

Henry has yet to decide definitively whether she will run for Senate. However, on her website, she has focused heavily on her distaste for the attacks. She likens politicians and political operatives to young children.

While her point is fair, it is also transparently self-serving. Kentucky Democrats have ruthlessly attacked Senator McConnell and his wife (because of her ethnicity), but Henry has not spoken out against those attacks nor those from the Republican Party against Judd when she considered running. When Henry’s husband ran for office, he also attacked his opponents, but Heather French Henry did not speak out against that. Henry only speaks out in opposition to what she sees as childish political behavior, when it applies directly to her.

Cooper replied to Henry’s statements, explaining "This is the big leagues. If a potential candidate is uncomfortable with public criticism then a U.S. Senate race probably isn't the right fit."

Henry’s past is not without enormous political controversy. Not long after her wedding to former Lt. Governor Steve Henry in 2000, “a state audit found that state employees had used personal leave to work on the wedding.”

In 2009, “Steve Henry accepted a plea deal in Franklin Circuit Court for three misdemeanors related to misusing campaign resources during his failed 2007 run in the Democratic primary for governor.” He was “sentenced to a $500 fine and … 12 months in jail, with the jail time suspended” so long as he avoided criminal problems for two years.

Additionally, Henry was “forced to pay a large settlement in a federal lawsuit over alleged Medicaid and Medicare fraud during his previous work as an orthopedic surgeon.”

This is going to be a tough seat for Democrats to win. Senator McConnell is an incumbent, well-liked, and in a red state. Democrats have had significant difficulty finding a candidate willing to run against Mitch, which contrasts Democrats’ claims that McConnell’s seat is particularly winnable. If Heather French Henry does decide to run, she will have to become accustomed to public criticism of her past and of her and her husband’s political scandals. The political system in America is one that puts a candidate’s whole life on the table, so that the best candidate may win.