Former senator Bob Kerrey told The Fix on Tuesday that he will not run for the open Senate seat in Nebraska, a move that robs Democrats of their top potential recruit in a tough state.
Democrats eyed a potential Senate comeback for Kerrey after Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced in late December that he wouldn’t seek reelection.
Given the tough political terrain in the Cornhusker State, a proven winner like Kerrey, who is also a former governor, was pretty clearly the Democrats’ best hope to hold the seat.
It wasn’t immediately clear who else Democrats might get to run for Nelson’s seat. Right now there aren’t a whole lot of options in a state where the Democratic bench is pretty short.
Some names that have surfaced include state Sen. Steve Lathrop and University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook.
Nebraska is a state the GOP is counting on to help it win the four seats it needs to return to a Senate majority.
“We continue to play offense this election cycle in Massachusetts, Nevada, Arizona, and Indiana, and remain fully confident that we will hold the majority next year,” said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
On the GOP side, state attorney general Jon Bruning is the frontrunner, but he faces a tea party-backed challenge from state Treasurer Don Stenberg, and state Sen. Deb Fischer is also in the race.
Gov. Dave Heineman (R) hasn’t completely ruled out running but hasn’t shown much interest either. The popular governor would be a strong favorite.
The filing deadline is March 1, but since Heineman is an incumbent, he would have to file earlier, by next Wednesday.
“Kerrey’s decision to stay in New York is a blow to the Democrats’ hopes of holding their Senate majority and reiterates why we believe Nebraskans will elect a fiscally responsible, conservative Republican Senator next fall,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.