Emmy-nominated actress. No. 1 fan of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Wife of an Indy 500 race car champion. Daughter (and half-sister) of country music royalty.
Ashley Judd is known for a lot of things.
But it was her role as a top campaigner for President Barack Obama – particularly among female voters – that brought her to Charlotte on Sunday.
She hosted a “Women for Obama” summit at Central Piedmont Community College. She addressed a gathering of young women at Amelie’s French Bakery in NoDa. And, in a series of one-on-one interviews with reporters at the local Obama headquarters in uptown, she trumpeted Obama’s record – especially on issues important to women, a voter group the president is counting on in November.
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“I love my president and I have so much excitement and hope about what he’ll continue to do for our country with another term,” she told the Observer as she held and petted Buttermilk, her poodle/spaniel. “He has done a very, very good job for girls, women and families in this country.”
She reeled off statistics like, well, like an actress who recites her lines: 1.3 million jobs added to the private sector for women, 72 million women with more money because of tax credits, 18 tax cuts for small businesses owned by women.
Judd, 44, didn’t mention another number: the still-high 7.4 percent unemployment rate for women.
Judd said in the interview that she’s signed up to do whatever she can to re-elect Obama and help further “It Takes One,” a grassroots effort recently launched by first lady Michelle Obama to spur supporters to reach out to at least one more voter.
Judd wouldn’t even rule out knocking on doors in North Carolina – a swing state Obama narrowly carried in 2008 and where he is tied with presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in most recent polls.
“Oh sure,” she said about helping out here. “I’m going wherever they want me to go.”
During the summit on Sunday at CPCC, Judd encouraged the crowd of 250 – most of whom were women – to share personal stories of how Obama has touched their lives when talking to other voters.
“Incorporate your narrative into your political activism,” she said.
Judd shared that she is a survivor of child and sexual abuse, part of the reason she advocates so much for women’s issues, she said.
“When I have the vulnerability and willingness to share from the heart, it goes straight to the heart,” she said.
She’ll definitely be returning to Charlotte in September for the Democratic National Convention. And not just as one of the many celebrities on hand to party and promote the Obama-Biden ticket.
She was elected to come as an at-large delegate from Tennessee, where she’s been politically active in a county near Nashville. She’s believed to be one of the few celebrity-delegates since the 1960s and 1970s, when stars like Paul Newman, Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty took to the Democratic convention floor to vote for the likes of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern.
“It was just something they offered me as an acknowledgement of my hard work,” she said. “It wasn’t something for which I put my name forward. It was a total surprise.”
Judd, who was nominated for an Emmy last week for her performance in ABC’s “Missing,” also starred in a series of movie hits, including “Kiss the Girls” and “Heat.” She’s married to Dario Franchitti, a Scottish race car driver, and her mother (Naomi) and half-sister (Wynonna) make up The Judds singing duo.
Ashley Judd is also well-known in college basketball circles for her passionate support for the NCAA champion squad at Kentucky, her alma mater.
Asked Sunday whether new Charlotte Bobcats player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – a member of that Kentucky team – will turn the previously luckless Bobcats into winners, her answer was a smile and a nod.
But she added that her passion during this election season is to try to energize female voters for Obama.
“That,” said Judd, “is where I have personally invested my energy and my heart and my soul.”