Like most sports, Politics is more often that not, a TEAM sport. With that in mind, Leavenworth Street’s 2008 Nebraska Politician of the Year, is turning into the plural:
The David Sokol Cabal
Not since the City of Lincoln stole the state capital from Omaha has there been as bold a power move that went on in Omaha just prior to the 2008 College World Series.
David Sokol, Chairman of MidAmerican Energy, possible successor to Warren Buffet at Berkshire, and mainly (in this scenario) member of the Omaha’s MECA board that oversees the Qwest Center (and now the new College World Series Stadium) had been a thorn in the side of Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey.
Fahey had been dealing with the NCAA about whether to tear down the venerable Rosenblatt Stadium, where to put a new one, how it should be done. But Sokol, arguably better connected to the NCAA than Fahey, kept pushing on the details.
Fahey wanted to put it in Lot D. MECA — with Sokol and Hal Daub leading the way — wouldn’t let him. Fahey tried once before to change the makeup of MECA — to put it under the Omaha city government, but failed.
But after Sokol messed with his voter registration, Fahey saw his big chance. Because he was technically no longer an Omahan, Fahey booted Sokol off the board!
For a day.
And then what happened?
The REAL mayors of Omaha put their collective feet down.
We’ll call them the Sokol Cabal. You can guess the names that had their input.
We’ll just say that it’s possible (we’re not saying it’s a “fact” for all you litigators out there) that their initials could be MY or WS or even — yes even — WB.
And then Mike Fahey’s office put out a meek little statement that said he was told to put Sokol back on the board, and that was exactly what he was doing.
And we never heard another peep.
That friends, is a political POWER play.
And that earns the Sokol Cabal the title of Leavenworth Street Nebraska Politicians of the Year.
But wait! Why isn’t the PotY?…
We had a lot of assumptions that MJ would be the easy pick for 2008. However, after consideration, we decided that his year wasn’t 2008 — it was 2007.
2007 was the year that Mike Johanns won his Senate race. Returning to Nebraska from his seat as Ag Secretary, Johanns pushed out all other serious contenders.
Back to his (temporary?) post as New York New School President went Cosmic Bob Kerrey.
Over to a Mayoral run went Hal Daub.
Back to the AG’s office went Jon Bruning.
Heck, out of the party went Tony Raimondo.
And from there on Johanns was able to run a purely positive campaign, running the more than ten points ahead that he always was.
And partly it’s not Johanns’s fault that he’s not PotY. Part of the blame has to go to Democrat candidate Scott Kleeb. Had he run an actual race against Johanns, things might have worked out differently. Kleeb might have only lost by ten points (like against Adrian Smith).
Instead, Kleeb pretended like he was ten points ahead, running his generic ads about roping and cowboying and fathering and Nebraska values. He forgot that he needed to attack Johanns in order to beat him — to give voters a reason to change their minds.
And the funny thing is that Kleeb had no problem attacking Johanns in debates, or in the press. But Kleeb badly lost the ad war and gave the race to Johanns on a silver platter.
And for that reason, we give Johanns extra props for his moves in 2007 (and await them in 2009)…
Some others from 2008…
Nebraska Team Obama
There was a point in the Presidential race of 2008 where politicos were pointing to Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District — where Electoral Votes were famously split — and questioning whether the 2nd could be THE battle ground of an evenly split Presidential race.
But Congressman Lee Terry’s campaign manager David Boomer (at least we think it was Boomer) pointed out that while the 2nd was likely Republican, it could go to Obama — but only if he didn’t really need it.
And that’s just what happened.
So with that in mind, we have to give Nebraska’s Obama campaign team much credit and kudos for grabbing that Electoral vote — but only when it didn’t really matter.
We doff our caps to John Berge (pictured, right) and the vols who registered voters and got them to the polls — early!
But in the end, we couldn’t give them the PotY. Why? Because they couldn’t get their voters to follow through with the prize that actually mattered in the end: the Congressional Seat. And that’s why we also cite…
“Obama-Terry Voter Anyone?”
It was a quote heard round the internets, whenever writers wanted to cite a Republican who was willing to reach out to Obama voters.
The funny thing was, Terry campaign manager David Boomer’s ad was (initially anyway) only placed in a little Omaha arts magazine with a readership of the coffee-house and clubbing crowd.
But it picked up steam.
And, as the ad-war showed, Terry wasn’t about to take 2008 lying down, like he had in 2006 against the unknown Jim Esch.
Esch turned his back on his old promise to not take dirty-filthy PAC money, and thus was able to wage a real ad war himself.
And then came in Big Daddy Barack.
With the Obama camp pouring money and volunteers and offices into the Omaha metro, Esch was ready to be a hobo on that gravy train and ride the rails to Washington.
Except that he was Jim Esch.
And the Terry campaign didn’t let the voters forget that.
So when faced with being represented by a hard-working family man who had proved himself a reasonable legislator versus a trust-fund party-boy who was looking for a new adventure, voters decided you could only have so much “change”.
Say what you want, but Team Terry pulled it out.
Team Mike Fahey
Team Fahey? Well, was there ever really a Fahey move without Paul Landow?
We’ve listed above what went down with Fahey when he tried his power move against the Movers & Shakers.
And we’ve all watched as Fahey has dealt with leveling Rosenblatt, dealing with a recall, building a new stadium, dealing with the Royals, dealing with NoDo businessmen…
And then cashing it all in.
Because Fahey’s legacy will no doubt be the new College World Series Stadium. And who knows what that will be like?
Oh sure, we can look at the architect’s plans and see the new shiny thing.
But you know what? In ten years, it won’t be shiny anymore. Heck in two years the luster of the newness will have faded.
And what will it REALLY be like? Will the carnival atmosphere that so many loved still be there? Will there be easy parking? Will there stifling heat (with no top-of-the-hill Rosenblatt breezes)? Will NoDo businesses pop up to bring the area alive?
And what about the other eleven months? Will it sit empty? Will the NCAA allow other events? (We’ll just assume that Dennis Poppe will frown on a Toboggan Run from the scoreboard into second base.) Will there be professional baseball? Can NoDo survive without it as an anchor? Will the costs plague the city?
Whenever these questions, and all the others, are asked and answered, people will look back to Fahey.
Heck maybe it should be called Fahey Stadium.
Just be careful that people don’t spit when they say it.
We’ve already got maneuvering for the 2010 Governors race — and if you remember the moves that happened for the Senate race the year before, you know 2009 will be big for the Guv’s seat.
And surprises? There are always surprises.
That’s what makes politics fun.
And that’s why we’re here.
And why you’re here.
And why we’ll see you next year.
Happy New Year and thanks for coming to Leavenworth Street!