The only opponent for Bob Kerrey has dropped out of the primary race for the Democratic nomination to try and replace Ben Nelson's Senate seat for 2012. And to boot? Hassebrook endorsed Kerrey.
You may be wondering... who is Bob Kerrey, and why do I care about Nebraska, one of the reddest of the red conservative states in the nation?
Because Bob Kerrey has won as a real Democrat in the past, and he can win again.
More after the squiggly.
I was born and raised in Nebraska. I've trudged through cornfields for 7 summers since I was 14 years old doing Detasseling and Rogueing for agricultural giants like Pioneer, Micogen, Northrup-King, Monsanto, etc. (I've since had many other jobs and am in my 32nd year of life). I've also been voting in Nebraska since I turned 18, and maintain my residency status while I am out of state for my graduate work. Why would I want to pay higher state taxes than where I currentlyl? I guess I believe in my home state, despite the Nebraska Unicameral salivating to emulate Wisconsin, Maine, and Michigan conservatives. There is a visible sense of relief when I cross the state line, back to a land of plains, wheat fields, Depression era rows of trees, gentle bubbling brooks, pastures, and of course, the beautiful Nebraska sky like some cathedral's vaulted ceiling.
What does Nebraska's delegation look like? First, it is not a populous state, despite being the fourth greatest producer of agricultural products in the nation (we are eclipsed only by California, Iowa, and Texas, and after Nebraska comes Minnesota, Kansas, and Indiana). Agriculture is king for Nebraska, and one of the reasons Nebraskans kicked up a storm in our own press against the XL-Keystone Pipeline running through the Sandhills of Nebraska (and thus, over the all important Ogallala Aquifer, the primary reason Nebraska can grow corn at all).
Officially, Nebraska is a nonpartisan state for our Unicameral. There are no party labels for this body, although the various executive offices certainly are partisan, and Republicans in Nebraska rule the roost. Some of this is historical, since Nebraska as a free state is one of the reasons South Carolina seceded in 1860 (a few months prior to Abraham Lincoln becoming President).
Who then is representing Nebraska in the federal government?
We have 3 House districts; Lee Terry (R-01), Jeff Fortenberry (R-02), and Adrian Smith (R-03). We have two Senators, Mike Johans (R-Sen), and Ben Nelson (D-Sen). So... 4 offices in the hands of Republicans, and 1 office that is a DINO (Nelson was originally a Republican who did an end run around the Republican Party, and then became a token Democrat for that fat corporate cash).
Let's take a look who is bankrolling Nebraska's delegation to Washington.
Lee Terry; Electric Utilities, Telecoms, Insurance, Healthcare Professionals, Banksters
Jeff Fortenberry; Health Professionals, Insurance, Banksters, Agriculture, and Real Estate
Adrian Smith; Insurance, Banksters, Healthcare Professionals, and Agriculture.
Mike Johanns- PACs, Retired, Insurance, Lawyers, Real Estate
Ben Nelson- Insurance, Lobbyists, Lawyers, Banksters, BigPharma.
It is apparent that corporations have their meat hooks into every Nebraska politician that we send to Washington. Is Bob Kerrey any different? Not if you look at his record from 2000, when he stepped down from his Senate seat. The same jokers who bankroll our Republican delegates are the same industries that helped Bob as a Governor of Nebraska from 1983 to 1987, and then as a Senator from 1989 to 2001.
But it's the voting record and Bob's history that counts. The ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) pegs Bob Kerrey in 2000 with an 85% voting record (ie, being progressive). Ben Nelson, our current Democrat who is retiring? 50% (while our other Senator, Johanns has a 10% rating). And another thing to remember is who is already gunning for Bob... the Anti-Choice Right to Lifers of course. Bob is on the best side of Women's rights... namely, by fighting for women's freedom to make their own choices, and keeping Big Government out of any body cavity.
So who exactly is Bob Kerrey? He was born in Lincoln, the state's capital, and went into the sciences (Pharmacy) for college. During the Vietnam conflict, he was a Navy Seal. His Seal career is not without controversy- he was the captain of the Seal team which engaged in the Thanh Phong Massacre on Feb 25, 1969. The story was carried by Time Magazine; Kerrey is a man with guilt and regret. From the same article, Kerrey responds...
"It's far more than guilt," he said that morning in 1998. "It's the shame. You can never, can never get away from it. It darkens your day. I thought dying for your country was the worst thing that could happen to you, and I don't think it is. I think killing for your country can be a lot worse. Because that's the memory that haunts.On Kerrey's next mission, he determined to only take prisoners. Kerrey's Raiders were sent on another abduction mission on March 16, 1969, and because the Seals did not fire from afar, but tried to sneak in by scaling a cliff, they were seen and in the ensuing combat, a vietcong explosive went off at Bob's feet. He was seen to by the medic, pumped full of morphine, airlifted out of the combat zone, and woke up in an army hospital. He was then sent to Philadelphia and would later receive the Bronze Star. This was Bob's last mission in the Vietnam War. After the surgery to remove his leg, he awoke to his family in his hospital room.
"There's a part of me that wants to say to you all the memories that I've got are my memories, and I'm not going to talk about them," he said. "We thought we were going over there to fight for the American people. We come back, we find out that the American people didn't want us to do it. And ever since that time we've been poked, prodded, bent, spindled, mutilated, and I don't like it. Part of living with the memory, some of those memories, is to forget them. I've got a right to say to you it's none of your damned business. I carry memories of what I did, and I survive and live based upon lots of different mechanisms."
He told the excruciating story of Thanh Phong to his mother, then to a minister and, later, to his first wife. His mother cried as she held her son, telling him that he would be O.K. And he would be, eventually. Yet, "I cannot be what I once was," he says. "Carefree, no nightmares, no pain, no remorse, no regrets, feeling in church like God was smiling warmly down upon me as if I was the most special thing on earth. That's what it was before, and that's not the way it is now."Bob would later join the protest movement against Nixon in Nebraska. He became a resturanteur, becoming wealthy, and as a political novice he won the Governorship in 1982 (despite supporting Gay rights in
Bob Kerrey was once a potential contender for the Democratic Primary in 2000, and speculation was rife whether he would challenge Al Gore. Bob had run for a Presidential nomination before. He has the ability to gather funds, he is charismatic, and well liked in our home state. This is the reason why the Republican Party in Nebraska is making a huge stink about Kerrey sandbagging until the day before the deadline to file for running for Nelson's Senate seat. The Republicans are scared by Bob, and well they should be.
What does the Republican Primary for this Senate seat look like? The Rs have some of the usual suspects, like Don Stenberg (currently treasurer) and Jon Bruning (attorney general), but also includes unknowns (at least to me) Deb Fischer (state senator), Pat Flynn (investment adviser) and Steven Zimmerman (completely unknown name). The Republican Primary will most likely go to Bruning, since Stenberg has repeatedly failed in the past.
Perhaps you saw Lawrence O'Donnell's story on Bob here. Lawrence even had another segmentabout Bob's story, which includes video of Bob singing "Dancing Matilda" at his victory speech- it is a haunting song about war and disillusionment. Listen to Bob sing the song, and you'll get a sense of who this man is.
I am excited for the first time in a long time about my home state's chances. The Democratic party of Nebraska has not had a win in a long time. We're a husk of our progressive roots from the days when William Jennings Bryan thundered and lit fires in hearts and minds across the Midwest. We have grown thin and weak since the days of Jim Exon, but Bob is an heir to that spirit, because of his personal story, and his committment to progressive principles. You won't find a better chance for Democrats in my home state. I've already given what I can to Bob's campaign for Senate. This is possibly one of the best chances Democrats have to retain Nelson's seat, and get a better politician to boot.
The last politician I gave to was Scott Kleeb for Nebraska's District 3 seat, but even Scott did not have the same effect that Bob does for people in my state. Remember... we can't give up on Red States, and we don't have to compromise (like the hack Nelson). How does Bob poll? TPM's polling of upcoming contests don't look good (double digit leads), but this is without any advertising whatsoever. Republicans believed that Nebraska was a gimme-state. That they could spend cheaply and still grab Nelson's seat. This is the reason they are scared of Bob, and why they are already sliming him. It's a coin toss really, but it's a coin toss we have a shot at winning.
To quote Lawrence at the end of the Feb 29 show, "Waltz today, walk tomorrow. That's the Bob Kerrey I know. Nebraska, and America will be lucky if we get him back in the Senate."