Thursday, August 16, 2007

Scott Kleeb: Waiting for a Sign

by Kyle Michaelis
The Omaha World-Herald checks in with the 3rd Congressional District's 2006 Democratic nominee, Scott Kleeb, giving little clue to his current plans but proving his continued commitment to public service and to the people of Nebraska:

Democrat Scott Kleeb has been hitting up supporters for campaign contributions this summer, but he hasn't made up his mind to run for public office again. "It's more of a declaration to supporters from last year that I'm still engaged," Kleeb said of his fundraising e-mails and letters. He said he is staying in touch "to let people know I didn't do what a lot of people expected me to, which was to pick up and move out of state."  
Kleeb gained national attention in his losing bid last year against Adrian Smith in Nebraska's heavily Republican 3rd Congressional District...Smith, who won by 10 percentage points, depicted Kleeb as a carpetbagger. Kleeb grew up on military bases overseas and attended college in Colorado and at Yale University. He and his wife now live in Hastings. Kleeb's campaign committee reported about $70,000 cash on hand as of June 30 and no debt. Kleeb could opt for a rematch with Smith, run for the U.S. Senate or none of the above.  
Much is unclear about how the Senate field will shape up. Incumbent Republican Chuck Hagel has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election. Former Sen. Bob Kerrey and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, both Democrats, are possible contenders if Hagel retires.  
Regardless of which race he considers getting into, Kleeb said, he needs to make a decision by midfall. In the meantime, he is teaching at Hastings College and working on a project to encourage community service among students. Kleeb also is trying to promote the development of alternative energy sources and helping a Nebraska ranch market its beef internationally.
It's good to see the World-Herald hasn't forgotten about Kleeb, whom they endorsed for Congress in 2006 praising his intellect, his eloquence, and his ability to "provide common ground across partisan and ideological lines." And, of course, we can't forget the World-Herald's criticism of Smith for his lack of skills, his poor reputation, and his inability to lead.

No doubt, there's still a lot of excitement about Kleeb and supporters who are still very much onboard should he run for office again in 2008. But, the natural urge to strike while the iron is hot and tap into that base while it is still very hungry has to be balanced against practical considerations. Smith's incumbency. The sheer size of Republicans' registration advantage in the 3rd District. The added difficulty of running alongside a Democratic Presidential ticket. Not to mention, well-founded concerns about establishing a reputation for losing elections.

Kleeb has what it takes. I know I'm not alone in being excited about his potential and his future in Nebraska politics. But, he's also a young man who can probably afford to think about things a little more long-term. Only he and his family can know when the time is right for them. On the other hand, Kleeb has to be mindful so the opportunity to win and to serve doesn't pass him by.

It sounds like we can expect Kleeb to announce his intentions within the next few months. That puts him in pretty good company amongst potential 2008 candidates for Congress and the U.S. Senate who should be giving us a clearer picture of next year's races soon after Hagel decides on his next course of action (supposedly before Labor Day).

I'll refrain from offering any further speculation about Kleeb in 2008 and beyond. But, readers are encouraged to partake in our new poll to have some say of their own. And, as always, please comment freely. You never know who might be reading.

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