Despite big financing and support from the DreamWorks Animation chief, Alison Lundergan Grimes has lost her bid to defeat the GOP leader in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race. “There is no more important election being held next year in this country,” Jeffrey Katzenberg wrote last September in an invite to a LA fundraiser for Grimes. “Alison is the antidote to McConnell and all he represents. She can win, and she will win if she gets the support she needs,” the DWA CEO optimistically added. Now that the record-breaking $80 million race is over, the only question out of Kentucky on what is expected to be a tough night for Democrats is whether McConnell will return to D.C. as Senate majority leader or in his current job of minority leader.
CNN and Fox News called the election for McConnell shortly after 4 PM Pacific time, after the polls closed in Kentucky. The GOP needs a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate. (UPDATE, 5:50 PM: “I’m immensely proud to have supported Alison,” Katzenberg told Deadline tonight. “She ran a strong campaign. I’m certain she has a great future ahead of her in Kentucky politics.”)
The biggest bundler for President Barack Obama’s campaigns and likely to be the same for a Hillary Clinton White House run in 2016, Katzenberg had made dethroning the longtime Kentucky incumbent his top priority this election. As well as giving big bucks to anti-McConnell PACs and raising millions in LA and NYC fundraisers, Katzenberg personally donated the maximum contribution of $5,200 to Grimes’ campaign. Other A-listers including Harvey Weinstein, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Leonardo DiCaprio, J.J. Abrams, Eddie Murphy and James Cameron also gave that much. That Hollywood support was used against Grimes in a TV ad that ran during the campaign:
In total, according to filing records, Grimes picked up more than $700,000 from Hollywood for her race. That’s the most given from Tinseltown to any individual candidate this election cycle. A portion of that came from the $170,000 the DWA boss donated overall this midterms to candidates and the various congressional committees of the Democratic Party. Katzenberg also handed over $450,000 to the Senate Majority PAC.
Besides Katzenberg and others from Hollywood, there was another type of star power backing Grimes as well. A longtime family friend to the Clintons, she received visits in the last weeks of the campaign from both the former President and former Secretary of State. While drawing big crowds, it wasn’t enough to unseat the entrenched and well-financed senior Republican. First elected during Ronald Reagan’s landslide re-election of 1984, McConnell raised a state record of more than $28 million for this year’s race – more than three times what Grimes pulled in. Of course, PAC money also flowed in for both sides. Roller-coaster polls had the incumbent and the Kentucky Secretary of State running close and then apart. Going into today’s vote, the Republican and Grimes were about 7 points apart in McConnell’s favor.
We’ll update with other Hollywood-relevant results as they come in.
UPDATE, 6:02 PM: In Minnesota, incumbent Democrat and former Saturday Night Live cast member Sen. Al Franken unsurprisingly cruised to re-election tonight. The author and former Air America Radio host first was elected in 2009 after a razor-thin victory whose result was bitterly contested by his Republican challenger, who didn’t concede for nearly eight months.
UPDATE, 6:36 PM: As former TV star Franken won his race tonight, for Clay Aiken the result was not so favorable. The former American Idol runner-up and Democrat lost his bid for Congress in North Carolina against GOP incumbent Renee Ellmers. Still, Aiken got a reality series out it — the singer-turned-politician had been followed by a crew of filmmakers Simon Chinn (Searching for Sugar Man, Man on Wire) and Jonathan Chinn (30 Days) since February. The result is a four-hour limited docu series for Esquire Network, which will air in the first quarter of 2015.
UPDATE, 7:36 PM: Another comic not doing as well in Minnesota tonight in Bill Maher. The host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher has been trying for the past two months to unseat 2nd District Republican Congressman John Kline through his “Flip a District” campaign. Despite the Maher show’s best efforts, Kline was re-elected easily to a seventh term tonight. Maher ran a contest on Real Time this season to determine who he should to try unseat and settled on Kline as the “winner.” On this election night of Republican victories, Maher he would have had a much better chance flipping a district from blue to red.