Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Some Much-Needed Female (and Western Nebraska) Perspective

by Kyle Michaelis
I happened across a recent post at the Swing State Project by one anonymous Nebraska gal who seems quite enamored with 3rd District Congressional candidate Scott Kleeb.

Miss "HistoryChickInNebraska" writes:
Don't count us Nebraskans out! Scott Kleeb in NE-03 (the western 7/8 of the entire state!) is coming on VERY strong. Scott out-raised Jay Vavricek, mayor of Grand Island (NE’s 3rd largest city) and a leading contender for the Republican nomination, by a 2-to-1 ratio in the first-quarter of 2006! He also out-raised Republican candidate John Hanson by a considerable margin. The only Republican candidate (there are 5+) he did not out-raise is Adrian Smith, a Rolex-wearing, Hummer-driving, ultra-arch-conservative with support from the wacko Club for Growth special interest group.

This is an unprecedented sign of strength for a non-Republican candidate in our District. Though we are pretty independent-minded out here (last viable Dem lost by less than a per cent!) and Scott is a completely new and exciting and different type of candidate for us - he’s young and just out of Yale with a PhD in history (dissertation on Western Cattle Ranching). I mean, how can all these stodgy NE businessmen compete with a bull-riding, cattle-branding, internationally-raised PhD who can hang with the rancher, entreprenuer, educator, student, and all in-between? Plus, he’s easy-on-the-eye if you know what I mean!

Whichever of the Republican candidates who ultimately wins will have a VERY hard time in head-to-head competition based on sheer intelligence and personability. This Congressional race will be one to watch and probably one of the most hotly contested races of the 2006 election season.

Like I said, don’t count us out! We’re all red now, but come this December I see a huge chunk of blue out here in the middle of a sea of red!

Well, that's rather refreshing for a change of pace. I hope the mysterious "HistoryChick" does not mind the New Nebraska Network's lifting her report to share with the rest of the state. Indeed, Kleeb has definitely impressed a lot of people with his early performance. I just regret that my own attentions have necessarily been elsewhere because the sheer expansiveness of the 3rd District makes keeping track of its political scene a difficult proposition for this one man show.

I did,however, catch this Omaha World-Herald profile of Kleeb this last weekend that is sure to have garnered the candidate even more attention and support across the state:
Scott Kleeb says his heart is in Nebraska's Sand Hills and in making the Democratic Party relevant again in middle America.

So instead of searching for a teaching job after receiving his doctorate in history at Yale last year, Kleeb, 30, is touring the 3rd Congressional District in his white Chevy pickup, trying to round up votes as the lone Democrat in the race.

Don't doubt the sincerity of this former bull rider whose dissertation was on cattle ranching, say relatives on whose ranch Kleeb works.

Even opponents give Kleeb credit.

"He's a bright guy with a charismatic personality, but I think the 3rd District deserves a little bit more than that," said Jessica Moenning, executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party. "He's kind of your classic carpetbagger."

Kleeb has enlisted the help of former Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, who is advising him and serving as his honorary finance chairman. It appears to have helped. As of March 31, Kleeb had raised $181,862 this year.

A bachelor who was a soccer player, wrestler and valedictorian in high school, Kleeb was named one of the 50 most beautiful people at Yale by an underground paper there.

Kleeb (pronounced klebb) blushed when asked about the most-beautiful list, saying it was more about the black cowboy hat, boots and jeans he wore around campus.

He said he cherishes the values and lifestyle of rural Nebraska....Kleeb calls himself the most optimistic candidate in the race, one who can bring change to a district that has some of the lowest per capita income levels in the country.

He criticizes as "cruel" current federal policy for sending 70 percent of farm subsidies to 10 percent of the largest farmers. "It subsidizes (farm and ranch) consolidation," he said, and pays only lip service to economic development....

The thought of running for Congress emerged while driving across 22 Western states to research his doctoral dissertation. Neither major political party, Kleeb said, was discussing the problems he saw.

"He's disappointed that the Democrats haven't done better, particularly in middle America," said Yale history professor John Gaddis. "He's trying to revive the party"....

Kleeb's campaign so far has focused on meeting with small groups of voters, speaking before civic groups and touring successful businesses.

A practicing Catholic, Kleeb said he opposes "criminalizing" abortion.

He supports sending more troops to Iraq. He declined to comment directly when asked twice if it was a mistake to invade Iraq. "It's about where do we go from here," Kleeb said.

He then told two stories, one about a friend who had opened a school for girls in Iraq, and another about an aging farmer he'd met in Italy who spoke with reverence about being liberated by American forces in World War II. "That's the America I believe in," he said.

He said the greatest issue facing the country is health care, saying it is wrong to provide billions in tax breaks to the pharmaceutical industry when many citizens don't have health insurance coverage.

Bill Berryman, a Kearney stockbroker and Democrat, said Kleeb can win because there's a strong populist streak in the heavily Republican 3rd District, and plenty of dissatisfaction with the GOP.

Kleeb believes he can connect with voters. "This is the only place that feels like home to me. It is home," he said.

Damn! With a profile like that, Kleeb could damn near make a believer of just about anyone.

When the worst Jessica Moenning, the Nebraska Republican Party's answer to Karl Rove, can say about Kleeb is that he's a carpet-bagger, you know they're in trouble....especially when her boy in the First District, Jeff Fortenberry, has far fewer roots and less connection to the state.

And, needless to say, Fortenberry sure as hell won't be bull-riding any time soon!

So, I say go ahead and get a little bit excited about this Kleeb fellow. Heck, be like HistoryChick and get REAL EXCITED.

There's nothing wrong with hope, even for a Democrat in Nebraska. The key is to remember that you still have to work for it - and, whether that election ends in hoped-for victory or heart-breaking defeat - the true work of making people's lives better and fulfilling this nation's promise is never going to be finished.

Such is the beauty of democracy. If there's no rest for the wicked, there's even less for the true believer.


Blogger HistoryChick said...

Hey Kyle, HistoryChick here! Of course I don't mind your sharing my posts - and I remain super excited about Scott Kleeb and his chances for planting a big ole blue lake into the middle of the red heart of the US. It will be a nice addition to the big blue county just to the north of me (the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations in South Dakota are TRUE BLUE! Just take a look at my favorite red-state/blue-state cartographic analyses).

Jessica 'Rove' Moenning's comment, calling Scott a "carpetbagger" is an indication of just how nervous the Republican Party is. Fortunately, someone from McCook who has already met Scott (he is pretty much non-stop retail politicing around the district) wrote a counter-punch to Rove-Moenning's ludicrous statement.

On running scared

I read with interest the April 21 news story about Scott Kleeb, Democratic candidate in the 3rd Congressional District. Mr. Kleeb was in McCook earlier that week to meet with a small group of interested citizens. I found him to be a bright, articulate and personable candidate.

In the news story, Jessica Moenning, executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, described Mr. Kleeb as "kind of your classic carpetbagger." That was disappointing.

As I recall, the same thing was said about Tom Osborne when he first ran for Congress. At least we know that Mr. Kleeb lives in Dunning, Neb.

Rep. Osborne has been very active in the 3rd District, but a lot of us still don't know where Osborne calls home.

I'm not at all surprised, though, that Republican Party folks already would start throwing labels at Mr. Kleeb. They should be worried. Mr. Kleeb will be a formidable opponent.
Duane R. Tappe, McCook, Neb.

Clearly, the Republicans are going to pull out some big swift-boat guns to attack Scott, especially with the way-way-ultra-conservative "Club For Growth" behind the likely candidate, Adrian Smith.

I'm hoping the Dems and Scott's campaign get ready for an all-out pre-emptive strike rather than hoping for calm and reason to somehow sway the voters out here. Because for the most part it won't. We've got to PUSH the moderates in the right direction otherwise they vote red simply out of habit.

Speaking of pushing the voters in the right direction, a writer from Bertrand, NE, wrote into the OWH's public pulse today pointing out Smith's connections to out-of-state PAC money:

Watch the money

Recent actions in both the governor's race and the 3rd District congressional race point to the need for campaign finance reform.

In the 3rd District, an out-of-state organization called Club for Growth has poured $107,000 into the campaign of State Sen. Adrian Smith of Gering and has paid for commercials.

If you research this organization, you will find that it is opposed to farm subsidies and tax incentives for ethanol production. These positions would appear to me to be contrary to the interests of the people in the 3rd District.

The governor's race also has seen the influence of political action committee money.

While U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne has been steadfast in his refusal to accept PAC contributions, Gov. Dave Heineman has shown that he has no problem taking money from specialinterest groups like the Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Any person who has worked on a political campaign knows how difficult it is to raise money in Nebraska. This makes our state the ideal candidate for a PAC to unduly influence an election.
Tom Schwarz, Bertrand, Neb.

So, there are people watching and not oblivious to the implications, I just hope that the Dems and Scott's campaign don't let the big $ and negative campaigning paint them into a corner like the last two presidential elections. I continue to hope that Dems have learned their lesson - and to that end I will volunteer to be a Rovian hit man for Kleeb's campaign.

Don't forget about us out here in the 3rd!

Blogger gambit said...

This just shows how long I haven't been able to keep in touch with everything happening in my own neck of the woods. Mr. Kleeb sounds like a step in the right direction (although I know practically nothing about him). I haven't heard anything about him in North Platte, but I'm not too surprised with this local paper's (The North Platte Telegraph) penchant for not giving the "alternate" candidates the attention they deserve.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

North Platte papers have published a couple stories about Kleeb. If you haven't yet, check out his web site at http://www.scottkleeb.com/21

He has a link to all the recent articles about him, including the North Platte ones.

I've met the guy at a dinner my college's young democrats organization put on for him, he is a really good guy, a bit conservative for my taste but I am very left so he ends up prity center. I know I am voting for him. I've been to the Republicans' websites, they are all very very right.

Blogger ScottsBluff said...

Adrian Smith - from the Gering City Council to a State Senator. He has accomplishment nothing. He is wishy-washy, meek, wimpy and mild. In some circles in western Nebraska he is humorously referred to has the "motorcyle helmet" senator. Why doesn't the main stream media do some research on this guy and all his fluff. Ultra-conservative? Hm, that is most likely a pass down from his family - who we all know out here by the Big Bluff (enough said.)


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