Kerrey had announced earlier this month that would not try to return to the Senate, citing his family in New York City.
“Doing things the conventional way has never been my strong suit,” he said in a statement. “I came to realize that my previous decision was the easy one, not the right one. My commitment to serve Nebraska and America, and to be part of the debate about the challenges we face, was too strong to dismiss.”
His wife went from opposing to supporting the idea, according to a Democratic official, and that played a big role in his reversal.
“My family supports this decision 100 percent,” Kerrey said in his statement.
He already has a Web site ready for the race.
Sources told The Fix of Kerrey’s decision Monday, but the former senator’s staff continued to say that he had not made up his mind.
The decision is good news for Democrats hoping to keep control of the Senate. The party now has a candidate with experience winning statewide in Nebraska to run for the one being vacated by Sen. Ben Nelson (D). Kerrey also served as governor of the Cornhusker State.
But Kerrey is open to accusations of both carpetbagging (he even considered running for mayor in New York) and wishy-washiness for going back on his decision not to run.
“As Nebraskans reacquaint themselves with Kerrey, they will quickly recognize that living in Greenwich Village for so many years tends to change a person,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.
Kerrey has also created some tension with his fellow Nebraska Democrats.
Chuck Hassebrook stepped down from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents to run after Kerrey passed on the race. He said earlier this week that “I gave up my seat ... based on his word. I do not believe he would go back on it.” Hassebrook is now vowing to stay in the primary.
Attorney General Jon Bruning is the frontrunner in the GOP primary, although state Treasurer Don Stenberg has the support of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).