'Open Left' Opens Up About Bob Kerrey & Scott Kleebby Kyle Michaelis
Notes on Nebraska Politics
by: Mike Lux
Although Chuck Hagel is obviously a really quirky guy and could change his mind at the drop of a hat, everyone I talked to in the know about Nebraska politics is pretty convinced that Hagel is going to announce his retirement, and that Bob Kerrey is going to get in the race to replace him. I know that many in the blogosphere are not fans of Kerrey's, some even comparing him to Lieberman, and I have never been close to him. But I think his running again is actually a good thing.
The most obvious reason is that he will likely give Democrats another seat in the Senate. Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and Scott Kleeb are the two other potential Senate candidates, and while both have a lot going for them, I think their paths to winning a statewide Senate race are much more uphill compared to Kerrey's, who is still very popular and who would likely beat any of the Republican candidates.
I also don't think Kerrey is as bad as a lot of the blogosphere assumes. He is for sure an independent cuss, one who has driven me crazy many times over the years, and he would be very unpredictable on issues the progressive community cares about. But overall he was the most progressive Senator that Nebraska has had since the legendary George Norris (a Republican in the 1930s who championed rural electrification and labor law reform). And unlike most politicians, he will be open and passionate about what he believes. He will drive us all crazy from time to time, but on balance he's a whole lot better than either Lieberman or any of the Republicans running.
I also had a good conversation with Scott Kleeb, his wife and new Nebraskan Jane Fleming Kleeb, and most importantly their one month-old baby Maya (they got me to lunch by promising I could hold her). Scott got 45% last year in one of the five most Republican districts in the country, and is trying to decide whether to run again. It's a tough call given the nature of the district, and it would be really difficult to defend the seat even if he did win in 2008. I think he's leaning toward going for it in spite of the odds, and I hope he does- he's a good guy. The nature of the district wouldn't allow him to vote with progressives on every issue, but I think he would always be open to listening to us, and would do what he could, given the district, to be a solid team player for Democratic leadership on tough votes.Sharing a ticket with Bob Kerrey could only strengthen Kleeb's candidacy should he again challenge Adrian Smith, the Third District's freshman Congressman. This Kerrey-Kleeb tandem (certain to attract a top-tier candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, as well) could lay the groundwork for a united front by Nebraska Democrats, running a true statewide campaign the likes of which hasn't been seen in almost two decades (since Ben Nelson's 'go it alone' philosophy took hold, leaving Nebraska Democrats with no real identity and making a true Democratic Party brand all-but-impossible to establish).
Of course, there are enough cards still in the deck that its too early to assume anything of the 2008 election. But, reading the above, there are definitely reasons to hope. The dream may yet become a reality.