Ker­rey ri­val quits race for U.S. Se­nate

Cites ex-gov­er­nor’s ‘surge of pop­u­lar­ity’

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY MARGERY A. BECK

OMAHA, NEB. | Bob Ker­rey will be able to fo­cus sooner than ex­pected on the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion for his old job rep­re­sent­ing Ne­braska in the U.S. Se­nate af­ter his main pri­mary op­po­nent abruptly quit the race Thurs­day.

While the decision by Chuck Hasse­brook clears Mr. Ker­rey’s path to a nom­i­na­tion he al­ready was ex­pected to win, it does lit­tle to al­le­vi­ate the chal­lenge of a Demo­crat win­ning a high-pro­file cam­paign in a con­ser­va­tive state that keeps trend­ing Re­pub­li­can.

Mr. Hasse­brook en­dorsed Mr. Ker­rey at a joint news con­fer­ence, cit­ing the for­mer se­na­tor’s per­sis­tent pop­u­lar­ity as ham­per­ing his own abil­ity to raise cam­paign money. He said the pop­u­lar for­mer se­na­tor and gov­er­nor gives Democrats their best chance at keep­ing the seat.

“There’s, frankly, a surge of pop­u­lar­ity for Bob Ker­rey among Democrats,” Mr. Hasse­brook, a Univer­sity of Ne­braska re­gent for 17 years, said Thurs­day dur­ing the news con­fer­ence at the Omaha Press Club. “That’s what led me to con­clude that I sim­ply could not mount an ef­fec­tive cam­paign.”

Sen. Ben Nel­son, the lone Demo­crat in the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, an­nounced in De­cem­ber that he would not seek a third term. That sent state Democrats scram­bling to draft Mr. Ker­rey, who at first said he wouldn’t run then changed course late last month and de­cided he would.

The state party made a con­certed ef­fort to stay out of the pri­mary brouhaha that en­sued, as some expressed ex­as­per­a­tion that Mr. Ker­rey jumped into the race af­ter Mr. Hasse­brook had given up his chance for re-elec­tion as re­gent in or­der to give Democrats a rec­og­niz­able name at the top of the Novem­ber bal­lot.

“When Bob Ker­rey en­tered the race, the dy­nam­ics changed,” said Vic Co­valt, state Demo­cratic Party chair­man. “Bob Ker­rey is a very pow­er­ful, very charis­matic, very ac­com­plished U.S. se­na­tor.”

Mr. Ker­rey, a Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ent who first ran for pres­i­dent in 1992, ac­knowl­edged he now has an ad­van­tage in be­ing able to fo­cus on the gen­eral elec­tion while the crowded Re­pub­li­can field fo­cuses on the May pri­mary.

“It’s al­ways been . . . think­ing about the gen­eral elec­tion,” he said. “It’s so close. It’s March, and in less than 240 days, the gen­eral elec­tion hap­pens.”

With less than eight months un­til Elec­tion Day, Mr. Ker­rey will have his work cut out for him, said David Kramer, the for­mer Ne­braska GOP chair­man and 2006 U.S. Se­nate can­di­date.

“The road to the gen­eral elec­tion is still one that he has a lot of ob­sta­cles to over­come, not the least of which . . . is, he’s got to go rein­tro­duce him­self to vot­ers,” Mr. Kramer said. “And . . . the third party su­per PACS can start go­ing af­ter him now.”

It’s too late for elec­tion of­fi­cials to re­move Mr. Hasse­brook’s name from the pri­mary bal­lot, even though he now will be cam­paign­ing for Mr. Ker­rey. Three oth­ers have filed for the Demo­cratic pri­mary, but none has held public of­fice and only one, Steven Lust­garten, has re­ported hav­ing any money on hand for a cam­paign.

Ne­braska’s GOP Se­nate field, na­tional Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tive out­side groups have for weeks been tar­get­ing Mr. Ker­rey, who left the U.S. Se­nate and Ne­braska in 2001 to be­come pres­i­dent of New School Univer­sity in New York City.

Four Repub­li­cans are cam­paign­ing for the GOP nom­i­na­tion: state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jon Brun­ing; state Trea­surer Don Sten­berg; state Sen. Deb Fischer; and in­vest­ment ad­viser Pat Flynn. A fifth can­di­date, Steven Zim­mer­man, has filed for can­di­dacy, but had raised no money since join­ing the race last year.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chuck Hasse­brook (left) bows out of the race for Ne­braska’s open U.S. Se­nate seat Thurs­day and en­dorses Bob Ker­rey (right), a for­mer gov­er­nor and se­na­tor from the state. The two men had been vy­ing for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion to re­place the re­tir­ing Sen. Ben Nel­son.

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