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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Mitch McConnell aides had strategy for Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio criticized the Mitch McConnell campaign for considering making depression a campaign issue.

J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Ashley Judd spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio criticized the Mitch McConnell campaign for considering making depression a campaign issue.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Campaign aides to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell proposed using actress Ashley Judd’s past bouts with depression against her if she had decided to challenge him in his reelection bid next year, according to a secret recording posted by a magazine.

Mother Jones released a recording Tuesday along with an article about a meeting in which the aides discussed opposition research into potential Democratic challengers. Aides talked and laughed on the recording about Judd’s political positions, religious beliefs, and past bouts of depression.

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The FBI is looking into how the recording was made after the McConnell campaign accused opponents of engaging in ‘‘Watergate-era tactics.’’ The magazine reported that the recording was provided last week by a source who requested anonymity.

‘‘She’s clearly — this sounds extreme — but she is emotionally unbalanced,’’ a McConnell aide said of Judd during a February meeting at the Louisville campaign headquarters. ‘‘I mean it’s been documented . . . she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.’’

Judd spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio criticized the McConnell campaign for considering making depression a campaign issue. ‘‘This is yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C.,’’ Tripicchio said in a statement. ‘‘We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp than to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis, and turn it into a laughing matter.’’

Judd has been open about her bouts with depression. She spoke to the American Counseling Association’s national convention in Cincinnati in March, telling more than 3,000 counselors from across the country about her experiences.

McConnell was asked several times at a news conference Tuesday about the propriety of attacking Judd over depression. He did not directly answer, but brought up an incident last month, when Progress Kentucky tweeted an insensitive remark about his wife, former labor secretary Elaine Chao.

‘‘As you know, my wife’s ethnicity was attacked by a left-wing group in Kentucky and apparently they also bugged my headquarters,’’ he said. ‘‘So I think that pretty well sums up the way the political left is operating in Kentucky.’’

The McConnell campaign asked the FBI to look into whether the Louisville office was bugged.

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton alleged in an e-mail to supporters that ‘‘liberals and their media allies’’ were ‘‘wiretapping our field office to spy on us.’’ Benton used the issue as a fund-raising appeal, asking supporters to send donations ‘‘to help us spread the truth.’’

‘‘We’ve always said the left would stop at nothing to attack Senator McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters are above and beyond,’’ Benton said.

Tentative deal reached in agriculture dispute

WASHINGTON — A tentative deal has been reached to resolve a dispute between agriculture workers and growers that was standing in the way of a sweeping immigration overhaul bill, a key senator said Tuesday.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who has taken the lead on negotiating a resolution, didn’t provide details, and said that growers had yet to sign off on the agreement. The farm workers union has been at odds with the agriculture industry over worker wages and how many visas should be offered in a new program to bring agriculture workers to the United States.

But Feinstein said she is hoping for resolution in the next day or two.

‘‘There’s a tentative agreement on a number of things and we’re waiting to see if it can get wrapped up,’’ Feinstein said in a brief interview at the Capitol.

‘‘I’m very hopeful. The train is leaving the station. We need a bill.’’

The development comes as a bipartisan group of senators hurries to finish legislation to secure the border and put 11 million immigrants here illegally on a path to citizenship, while also allowing tens of thousands of high- and low-skilled foreign workers into the United States on new visa programs. The agriculture issue was one of a handful of unresolved issues. There’s also still debate over plans to boost visas for high-tech workers.

The group of four Republican and four Democratic senators had been hoping to release the mammoth immigration bill this week but it’s not clear that deadline will be met.

At least 50 percent and as much as 70 or 80 percent of the nation’s farm workers are here illegally, according to labor and industry estimates.

Former state representative wins race for Jackson seat

CHICAGO — Former state representative Robin Kelly, whose campaign received a
$2 million boost from Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, easily captured Tuesday’s special election to replace former US representative Jesse Jackson Jr.

The win for the Matteson Democrat was widely expected as the Chicago-area district, which Jackson represented from 1995 until late last year, has been a Democratic stronghold for roughly six decades. Kelly emerged from a crowded field in the February primary by focusing heavily on antigun efforts and was helped by ads from Bloomberg’s super PAC.

Jackson stepped down in November after a mysterious medical leave where full details were never disclosed to the public. He cited his health and acknowledged he was under federal investigation in his resignation letter.

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