Nebraskans will be losing our senior senator after the election this year—Sen. Ben “Cornhusker Kickback” Nelson. He decided to retire, probably for a variety of reasons, but I suspect not the least of which was the fact that Nebraskans are still kind of ticked off about his Obamacare vote.
Such is the state of the Democratic Party in Nebraska, that it’s hard to come up with a high profile Democrat in the state who would be a plausible opponent to one of the 2 or 3 high profile Republicans in the state who are running. Remember, Nebraska is red (and not just at Memorial Stadium on Saturdays in the fall)—our governor and all of our constitutional officers of the state are Republicans, all of our members of the House are Republicans, and our second senator is a Republican. It is not impossible for a Democrat to win a major race in Nebraska (witness people like Nelson), but it doesn’t happen all that often.
And so, who should reappear on the scene, but our FORMER 2 term senator and former 1 term governor, Bob Kerrey. In my lifetime, approaching a half century later this year, Nebraska has had precisely 4 Democrat U.S. Senators, 3 of whom were former Nebraska governors who had managed to impress conservative Nebraskans with their ability to manage state government.
Bob Kerrey has always been a colorful character in our state: a former pharmacist who was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner in Vietnam, who later became an entrepreneur as a restaurant owner, his time as a single governor included dating Debra Winger while they were forming “Terms of Endearment” in Nebraska was cause for much gossip.
Kerrey does return to Nebraska from time to time—even though he has been living in New York since leaving the Senate 10+ years ago. He gave a very thoughtful (and blessedly short) commencement address at Doane College here in Crete last spring when my daughter graduated. Many of us are kind of chuckling right now at the prospect of Kerrey returning, but it’s obvious the GOP and others are taking the possibility seriously—already starting anti-Kerrey attack ads.