Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Another EndORRsement

by Kyle Michaelis
Just what do Republican candidates hope to get out of the endorsement of former Nebraska governor Kay Orr? Orr was never very well-liked and left office downright loathed in several corners of the state. Nevertheless, it's obvious she imagines herself something of a king-maker to this day in state Republican politics.

A few months back, Orr endorsed little-known Dave Nabity for governor, getting him a headline or two, and today the AP reports on her doing the same for a candidate in a different race:
Former Gov. Kay Orr is endorsing John Hanson for Congress.

Hanson, a former district director for U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., is one of four Republican candidates who have announced campaigns to succeed Osborne representing Nebraska's 3rd District.

Orr served as governor from 1986 to 1990. She and her husband, Bill, will serve as honorary co-chairs of Hanson's campaign, Hanson announced on Monday.

Hanson, 43, of Kearney described Orr as one of his political mentors.

Orr said she believed that Hanson's experience with the political process as a member of the state Republican Party's executive committee, as well as his work with Osborne, prepares him well for the office.

Other announced Republican candidates for the seat include state Sen. Adrian Smith of Gering, David Harris of Kilgore, co-founder and president of the nonprofit Biodefense Council, and Doug Polk, 45, a substitute teacher from Kearney.

No Democrat has announced plans to run for Osborne's seat.

In my mind, there's some very real doubt whether the thumbs-up from Orr is an asset or a liability with Nebraska voters. Of course, she's bound to have some pull with hardcore Republicans, but - again - this is not a woman who was well-loved in office, and her stature hasn't really improved ever since.

It's interesting, however, that she would choose to endorse a former aid of Osborne's on the basis of that relationship while at the same time endorsing Nabity who is a long-shot challenger of Osborne's for the governorship. Doesn't that seem like something of a disconnect?

Then again, maybe the purpose of these endORRsements is not to get a headline or two for the candidates but to grab them for herself. What shred of legitimacy her name provides Nabity has already proven something he hangs onto quite tightly against Osborne and Dave Heineman, both for whom Orr could have done very, very little. This maximizes her share of the spotlight, further perpetuating the illusion that she has reach even if Nabity doesn't connect with more than a handful of NASCAR-loving voters.

It's with this endorsement of Hanson, though, that we could see what Orr's blessing amounts to. This isn't the out-of-left-field choice that Nabity was - in this race, that would probably have been the substitute teacher. That means there's going to be some real expectations of Hanson to come through the primary with such a would-be establishment figure lining up behind him.

Who knows? Orr's endorsement didn't prove a kiss of death for Jeff Fortenberry in last year's 1st District race. Maybe she deserves a whole lot more credit than I know. Hanson comes through this all right, and I'll have to reconsider whether voters really hated this woman or just didn't care for her very much. Nabity gets that nomination for governor, though, and this whole darn world will have gone topsy-turvy. Orr would look like Nebraska's own cross between Machiavelli and Nostradamus.

Anyone care to make a bet? Check back often. We'll have the line from Vegas shortly.


Anonymous Chad W said...

I know I may not be that old, but what did Kay Orr do (besides the proposed low level nuclear dump) that made her an enemy for some Nebraskans?


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