For those who don’t live in the Cornhusker state, it would be tempting to think that we don’t really play “rough and tumble” politics. But, that’s not necessarily the case. Although Republicans are the dominant power in the state (holding all of the constitutional offices—executive branch—in the state, as well as 4 out of 5 of our federal seats; not to mention a significant majority of our officially non-partisan legislators are actually registered Republicans), some of the Democrats understand how to play tough:
Gov. Heineman, who days after his re-election in 2010 announced that he would NOT be a candidate for the U.S. Senate, thus opening up the 5 way race we currently have between the current State Treasurer (who used to be the Attorney General), the current Attorney General, a current State Senator, a businessman and a young veteran—has more recently (since Sen. Nelson announced his retirement) been not-so-definite about his unwillingness to run.
The assumption is that Heineman would be the presumptive favorite for the GOP nomination if he ran, although I’m not actually sure that would be the case. It seems to me that the three candidates who have been running for almost a year—in one case longer (current Treasurer, Don Stenberg, and current AG Jon Bruning, and businessman Patrick Flynn) might have a little something to say about that, after spending significant time and treasure running.
The Republican Liberty Caucus of Nebraska is sponsoring the first debate of the primary campaign on February 11. So far 4 of the 5 declared candidates have agreed to participate. The nominal favorite (assuming Heineman doesn’t run), Attorney General Jon Bruning, has yet to confirm his participation, and has indicated that he probably won’t be there, suggesting that he isn’t going to debate anyone until the “field is set.”
Strategically, that might be a good idea for the Attorney General—if Bob Kerrey is the Democratic candidate, and Gov. Heineman doesn’t get in, then as the current “frontrunner, Brunning undoubtedly doesn’t want to get bloodied up any more than he has to in a primary race. On the other hand, it seems to me that in an era of Tea Parties, when transparency and accountability is something the voters seemingly want, candidates would be better off to embrace more debates, and openness.