2010 Nebraska PoliticianS of the Year

There were two big political stories in Nebraska this year — the recall of Omaha Mayor Jiim Suttle, and the fallout from Senator Ben Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback.

But there were two politicians who stood out, and we award them (for the first time) the Co – Leavenworth Street Nebraska Polticians of the Year:

Governor Dave Heineman and Congressman Lee Terry.

***

Ever since his closer than expected win over Jim Esch in the Year of Obama 2008, the race for Congressman Lee Terry’s second Congressional district seat was going to be a battle…we were told.

The Democrats and the local MSM were constantly banging the drum that Terry’s opponent in 2010, state Senator Tom White, was going to be The One who would really give it to Terry this time.

White was the bare-knuckle brawler, who could debate and fund raise and campaign, was smart and attractive, invented wi-fi and the iPad and spray-on tan.

But the bizarre thing was, few counted the fact that 2008 was a crazy Democrat year that won’t be repeated anytime soon. That didn’t seem to matter to the local MSM.

Then there was the quick realization — really starting with the Massachusetts Senate race which Republican Scott Brown won — that 2010 could be a crazy Republican year, much like 1994. But for the NE-2 race, that didn’t seem to matter to the local MSM.

Next the realization, as we drifted into autumn, by the national political pundits — and the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee — that the race was not going to be competitive. But that didn’t seem to matter to the local MSM.

All we heard was how bitter and sludgey a race Tom White was going to give Lee Terry.

But Terry continued to campaign. And raise money. And talk about he votes on the issues and how White would vote on the issues.

Then just before the end of the race, the local paper came out with a poll — that was picked up nationally — that Terry was up by five stinkin’ percent.

Oh, there was a sort of disclaimer that, well, if they looked at, you know, LIKELY voters, maybe Terry was up by eight percent. But that concept was buried and the five percent was what went out, and Tom White was further propped up.

But on Election Nigth, the tally went up and the numbers showed that Terry won by twenty-two percent.

That, kind readers, was a blow-out.

How ’bout that?

The race run by Lee Terry, and orchestrated by his campaign manager David Boomer, put out the fire of many Democrats in town, and may keep them quiet for years to come. We will find out as the calendar pages flip.

But for 2010, that makes Lee Terry our (co) pol of the year.

***

Unlike Terry, there was never a moment when Governor Dave Heineman was thought to be in danger of losing in 2010.

Not before no Democrat contender could be found.

Not after unknown Mark Lakers showed up.

Not after Lakers went down.

Not when Mike Meister showed up.

Heck, the only question about Heineman was how long he would stick around in his newly re-elected job. Everyone, including us, looked to 2012 and the Senate. Democrats demanded that he sign a pledge that he wouldn’t run for Senate.

And since his re-election was a forgone conclusion, we all concentrated on and broke down every statement he made. Sounding like a Senate candidate? Staking out his positions? Prodding Ben Nelson with a pointy stick?

Sure seemed like it.

And then, after the election that no one blinked at, Heineman strode to the mics and surprised many, many observers.

He likes being Governor. He wants to be Governor. And he doesn’t particularly care for Washington.

And Heineman will become the longest-serving Governor in the history of Nebraska. Mainly because he did what he wanted to do, the way he wanted to do it.

Few in politics today get to live that dream.

Heineman did. And does.

And that makes him the (co) Leavenworth Street Politician of the Year.

***

And the rest…

Well, Ben Nelson kept his name in the news through much of the year. But nearly every time it was followed with the words, “Cornhusker Kickback”, “sellout”, “bribe” or the like. And that was the polite stuff from the Republicans.

Nelson’s continued walk across the political fence has earned him the vitriol of both sides of the aisle.  To his surprise, he has received the stink-eye from Nebraskans, who have finally gotten wise to his routine.

There was a time when Nelson’s schtick was seen as independent or Unicamerally non-partisan in some sense. But ever since Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback, Nebraskans have realized who Nelson is looking out for. And it ain’t them.

Nelson’s career is rolling down Capitol Hill, and becomes almost comical at times. If Dave Heineman had decided to run, there would have been a good chance that Nelson would have quit instead of being shellacked (to use the President’s words) in 2012.

Instead, he may decide he can fight Jon Bruning, or whomever else. But Nelson may find that could be an even worse choice — losing to someone less popular that Heineman.

Ben Nelson’s decision will be the one to watch in 2012.

***

And then there is Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle.

Some thought that he would be the pol of the year, much like the theatrics of Ben Nelson got him named back in 2009. But Suttle, not so much.

Suttle’s actions have been more like the anti-pol, but not in some good way. Every ham-fisted decision, every failed strategy, every blown opportunity, have simply contributed to the state Suttle is in now.

The problem with Suttle is that he thinks he is spreading fertilizer, when instead he just keeps on stepping in it with every pace.

And now, at the doorstep of the vote on January 25th, Suttle will try to sell his case. But what has he been doing the past six months? Telling you that a recall is expensive. Telling you that there are (gasp!) political motivations in the recall. Telling you that he isn’t breaking the law.

Even Suttle’s demand that the recallers spell out their budget plans doesn’t defend or celebrate his actions as Mayor. He has been doing absolutely nothing during the whole recall process to tell you why he should be retained as Mayor. That’s not be non-political, that’s being obtuse.

The clock is literally ticking on Suttle’s career now. If he can rise from the political graveyard in the election, that could put him up higher in this evaluation next year.

If not, he will be another footnote.

***

And who will we see on this list next year?

The list of familiar names like Dave Nabity, Hal Daub, Jon Bruning or Don Stenberg?

Or will we see some new names in the limelight like Mike Foley, Pete Festersen, Deb Fischer, or Steve Lathrop, just to throw out a few?

Depending on the results of January 25th and the plans of Ben Nelson and others, things could be wide open in 2011.

See you next year.

55 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Terry crushed that Tom White fellow. White must really drink a lot of Kool-Aid to have thought he was going to win anything. White had such a history of being a bully and worse. Thank you Lee for crushing him and his side kick Ian.

  2. NE Voter says:

    SS, if youbhave time, you oughta post the top 10 comments of the year. I for one have posted some doozies this year, as have others.

  3. FYI,

    MSM = “Main Stream Media”.
    There are various local media outlets (which include blogs) that are not considered “Main Stream”.

    And, per the instructions above the header, comments with links will automatically not post.

    And I’m working on the email subscription thing, so just hang on.

    Thanks
    -Ed.

  4. Dennis says:

    I agree with the notion that Lee Terry should be one of Nebraska’s politicians of the year. He won a pretty decisive victory in what had been a swing district. OTOH, I have to disagree with the designation of Heineman as a politician of the year. His mismanagement of the budget has led to a record $1 billion deficit. He will now have to make some real tough choices for the first time in his career. He was able to hold the line on the budget for two years thanks to stimulus funds. Interestingly enough, it was Ben Nelson’s support of the stimulus bill that made this possible.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Looks like Tommy White is still reading the blog. Hint Tommy (kiddie table). And if Lee is at the kiddie table and he KICKED your backside, what’s that mean you are. For sure not the Boxer/brick layer/tucker you put yourself out to me. But thats all old news.

    The Ding on the Gov is laughable. Gonna need a new tune to move forward, heck the guy is a lame duck now. What do you expect to get by sticking it to a guy who isn’t running for anything else?

    It won’t be long before students will ask why there aren’t any Democrats in office statewide. Teachers, and their union bosses, will have to point to other states so they can show where one is actually elected. Things are good.

  6. Aanother Anon says:

    But would Lee Terry have kicked Tom White’s butt if the anti Suttle crowd hadn’t been out in force to sign the petition? And did Terry win as much as Tom White just sort of petered out?

  7. I am the Anonymous says:

    Yes, Terry would have kicked his butt just as bad. Suttle and White didn’t have anything to do with each other, the petitions didn’t really kick in until after the election, and White – well, he was just a god-awful bad candidate. I know Dem party leaders who couldn’t even bring themselves to vote for him.

  8. Macdaddy says:

    I will agree with your pick of Heineman because he actually did something but I have to disagree with adding Lee Terry to the list. He ran the same race that he has run every 2 years, it’s just that this time voters were fed up and turned on the Democrats, hence the lopsided victory. If you want to contend that he didn’t blow it, fine, but he had arguably one of the worst political opponents in the country, outshone only by Alvin Greene in South Carolina for laziness and incompetency. Jim Esch was practically a farmer compared to White.

    I actually would follow Time magazine’s old example and pick The Voter as the politician of the year. I realize that we are the target of the campaign, but in 2 short years we have elected Barack Obama by historic margins, elected Jim Suttle by historically apathetic margins, started a grassroots political movement that involved about a quarter of all voters, re-elected Republicans by historic margins, and successfully got a recall going against the mayor of the largest city in Nebraska despite a lack of criminal allegations or mental illness. Talk about your flip-flopping! Talk about fingers in the wind! Look back at the last 2 years and tell me what principles that The Voter holds and will follow, no matter what. You can’t because they have none…just like a real politician. The Voter is such a master politician that he makes career politicians like Senator Nelson look like rank amateurs. So give yourselves a hand (I’m patting myself on the back): we’re #1.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wow. And if anyone still wondered about the identity of Street Sweeper, look at who she picked to be the two “politicians of the year.” Glaringly obvious.

  10. unknown says:

    Let’s get real folks. Anyone who still thinks Street Sweeper is an individual is probably confused by all those Santa’s out there at the same time. Some of the more recent posts were obviously produced by an intern with a poor command of the language. They’re a far cry from the well thought out and written postings of the past. It’s time to shift the debate. Is Street Sweeper a production of the Nebraska Republican party, or is it something that is produced by the Governor’s office?

  11. Anonymous Observer says:

    Anonymous @ 1/1/11 7:22 PM

    Senator Conrad won because her campaign manager Matt Prokop is an ass-kicker and Danielle Conrad is loved in her district. All of Pete Ricketts $50K he spent on garbage campaign mail against her was wasted. This was the only “must win” that was even contested and Mark Fahleson completely dropped the ball on it.

  12. Nebraskian says:

    Suttle shouldn’t be recalled, because just idiocy isn’t a crime. And you never know how Daub or Vokal would have handled the mayorality. These are hard times, and while Suttle isn’t Jesus, there are worse people we could have running Omaha. Certainly some of the possibilities to replace Suttle would be worse. And unknown at 3:29 am, don’t insult Sweeper. His politics may be a bit out there, but he’s a good writer.

  13. Omaha Independent says:

    I can’t believe you people. It’s obvious that Street Sweeper is a political insider with a secret fortress of solitude underneath Pauli’s. Or maybe underneath LaCasa’s. I suppose it could be underneath Bronco’s. Maybe he/she is in the old Republican offices at 36th….

    My Politicians of the Year are Suttle and Heineman.

    Suttle-a shining example of how not to do it. He has a Pelini-like grasp of public relations

    Heinemann-for realizing he’ll do far more as governor than he ever could in Senate. It’s going to bumpy down in Lincoln, and Gov Dave is sticking around for the tough stuff.

    Hey Sweeps, Call out the CIR article in the OWH on Monday, please?

    OI

  14. unknown says:

    Omaha Independent,

    You may be onto something there with the secret fortress underneath some spot on Levenworth thing. Do you suppose there could still be something lurking in the soil below the old Cross Town Tavern? As I remember, the patrons got very involved in politics before the place was demolished.

  15. RWP says:

    They laughed when I said it/ they’re not laughing any more/ quote of 2011.

    “I believe it’s entirely possible and highly likely that the 3rd Congressional District … will go from border to border,”

    Dave Heineman, Jan 2, 2011.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hey sweeper–if you don’t wish to out yourself as a woman? Stop reacting to every time someone
    takes a swipe. In other words, man up. Or? Keep throwing like a girl.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Why do right wing nut jobs always start screaming about liberals whenever someone says or does something they don’t approve of? There is nothing in what Anon 3:05 posted to indicate that they are either liberal or conservative. Is over reaction an integral part of the conservative psyche? Is that why we ended up in that stupid war in Iraq?

  18. Spectator says:

    Looks like Don Walton was talking to Vince Posers or Sen McCoy recently. Don thinks there will be a battle in the legislature over the Winner Take all issue on Electoral Votes. It will be interesting to see if there is anything to it. What a session this could be. (1)Potential re-engineering of State Government or a raise in Taxes, (2) Redistricting and a fundamental shift away from rural Nebraska, (3) The taking away of the Obama Electoral Vote, (4) Reforming of CIR or it’s demise. T(5) The repeal of the Dream Act and tougher Illegal immigration laws.

    Wow what a year we have ahead. There will be a lot of shattered dreams and careers after this session.

  19. Dennis says:

    Any efforts by the Republicans in the Legislature to change the law on electoral votes indicates that the GOP must lack confidence in it’s ability to beat Nelson and carry CD-02 in 2012.

  20. NE Voter says:

    The funniest thing about the Republicans crybabying over the electoral vote apportionment law is that Republicans in the big blue states (California/New York/Florida/etc.) have been trying for years to adopt Nebraska’s system. Ya see, in those states, winner take all prevents Republicans from peeling off electoral votes in conservative Congressional districts.

    Term limits have reduced the quality and intellectual depth of the Nebraska legislature to about comparable with a third grade class. Matter of fact, my third-grader deonstrates more clear thinking and actual problem-solving ability than most of the boobs in the UNicameral (you know who you are).

  21. Unknownymous says:

    The best thing about term limits is, it gives the the Governor cover for his lack of leadership. With 45+ half wits dominating the legislature, it gives plausibility to the claim when the Gov. lays the blame for all the catastrophes off on the Unicameral. He has to be the envy of the Governors of the other forty-nine states.

  22. Conrad Buffington says:

    I sure hope that there are politicians with the guts out there to make marijuana legal in Nebraska. I just got busted with some pot a few weeks ago, these laws against smoking pot are unconstitutional.

  23. James says:

    I always enjoy the “kool aid” comments. I wonder if those posters type with one hand, or take the time to put down their cup of tea to type with 2 hands.

  24. James says:

    By the way, anyone know when Suttle will begin his “please keep me” campaign? I want to see what his next round of lies will be.

  25. Heath Nordquist says:

    It would be interesting to see NE Voter, and others, say their comments in person to a few of the Senators. Of course they won’t. I would almost pay money to watch NE Voter talk this way to Sen McCoy in a cage match! Even better yet to have them put their name on a ballot and see if they are electable!

    Oh and I doubt Ben Nelson has anything to do with the Electoral Votie issue, you jackwad, as he runs statewide. Gee get a clue

  26. E. Kant says:

    So Lee Terry is Politician of the Year because he got re-elected? A Republican. In Nebraska. And he got RE-ELECTED??? That is truly amazing.

    About once a year I stop by to see what’s happening on this blog and I always get the same answer: nothing.

  27. Unknownymous says:

    In response to Heath Nordquist;

    Before term limits forced the best informed members of the legislature out of office we had some representatives who knew what was going on in the state offices. And they came from across the political spectrum – left, right and center. The forty-nine jackwads we now have representing us would have all been considered back benchers a few years ago. I’ve told some of them how I feel, and will gladly repeat it to any I’ve missed. In person!

  28. Omaha Independent says:

    Unknownymous: So when can Ernie run again?
    E. Kant: Nice to see you, have a great year.
    Spectator: Isn’t the DREAM act a piece of national legislation?

    Pretty quiet around here, I better go pay my wheel tax, oops! I meant to say “Road Use Fee”, and order my pretty new license plate.
    OI

  29. Heath Nordquist says:

    Nope the Dream Act hasn’t been enacted yet at the Fed level if I recall correctly.

    Unknown Anon- you are showing your ignorance and inability to face any reason now. But hey that’s your perogative. Most likely your just a bitter, never has been, wanna be. Or, you could post your real name, then go down on Wednesday and announce yourself to the body by means of standing out in the lobby with a sign saying all 49 Senators are Jackwads. I feel pretty certain the press will be there to capture the moment. Then we will all know who you are and you can be addressed accordingly. Or you can lurk in the shadows and throw spit balls, about your speed at the moment.

    In the words of the classic movie A Christmas Story, I Triple Dog Dare You!

  30. TexasAnnie says:

    Nope Heath! Due to legislative “rules,” we can’t stand in the lobby with a sign. (The Unicameral doesn’t believe in the first amendment.) What we can do though, is get our message printed on a tee shirt and stand there… (Been there, done that.)

    And now that folks at Leavenworth St. have your attention, please give us a hint about what you plan to CUT from the state budget. I’ve heard that the University system ranks very, very high nationally in terms of public support. At one point in recent years it was THIRD highest of the 50 states!

  31. Heath Nordquist says:

    Cut Education, for most of the savings. Then a cut to State Aid to _________ (fill in the blank). Maybe some cuts to Illegal Aliens. But as stated, the university is somewhat bloated, as are public schools. Really, what is the deal with last years ceiling becoming the following year’s floor. That’s State Aid for you. Oh and maybe even end the Learning Community, save $20M+ right there.

    Oh and good point Tex Fannie- just need the bold unknown to wear a t-shirt (like your idol the bookie Earnie Chambers)

  32. Unknownymous says:

    Heath,

    If they’re honest about it, most of the folks in the Unicameral right now will tell you that eight years isn’t enough to gain a real level of expertise. John Harms has said he will introduce legislation to extend the number of years an individual can hold a seat. It’s been said that with our present limit of two terms we’ve created a 50/50 split in our level of representation. Those in their first term have no experience, so they don’t know s**t. Those in their second term can’t get reelected so the don’t give a s**t. There are several serving now who understand their lack of experience. Then there are those like the ones you obviously support who don’t have the good sense to recognize they don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

  33. Julie Schmit-Albin says:

    Texas Annie: That’s the policy but I have seen it bent for some. Not us, we were told by Capitol Security to take off our “No Cloning” stickers once during a press conference. (We should have pursued that violation of free speech.) I have seen photos in the LJS of some groups holding signs and banners in the Rotunda during press conferences. Then there’s the supposed Capitol Environs Commission policy that the only dog allowed in the Capitol is a service animal. Ernie blew that “rule” to smithereens for years with his poodles.

  34. Puffington the Magic Dragon says:

    I wonder how the recall race is going to turn out. I don’t know if there’s more outrage with the recall people or the Democrats.

  35. TexasAnnie says:

    Well Heath, cutting education (K-12, I mean) is easier said then done. During the decade I watched up close and personal I understood too well that the Unicameral has not created an equitable distribution thus far. I quit paying attention when the Learning Community became operative. If y’all will check your Constitution (Art. VII, Sec. I) it will become clear that K-12 (the common schools) is a STATE, not a local obligation. You can’t get to reason from your starting point of any reliance on property tax…and yet your suggestion is to cut state aid? Good luck with that! The university system, however, IS NOT a constitutional mandate upon the legislature. Nor is state aid to cities and counties.

    Last year’s ceiling as this year’s floor? Sure. Including of course the “ceiling” Heinemann created when he accepted the stimulus money. He knew and spoke of the cliff effect then. If he crashes down the “ceiling” he created last year, I’m SURE you’ll have teacher lay-offs. Is that “job creation” in your vocabulary? Or here’s a tired old idea: revert back to the property tax for the state obligation of school funding. You’ve got a mess there and I’m not saying it’s one of your creation. But I am saying that I don’t think you’ll fix it without raising taxes…

    Ernie Chambers as my idol? Huh? You seem to have difficulty in correctly typing the names of others. Is that some type of learning disability on your part?

  36. TexasAnnie says:

    Yeah, Julie. I WISH you had challenged more of the crap going on there than you had. We must all pick our battles. Life isn’t long enough to fix what our politicians do to us!

  37. GeosUser says:

    Puffington,
    Here’s how the recall election will turn out. Suttle will lose, it’s as close to a sure thing as there ever has been in Omaha politics.
    I got to listen in on a Backward Omaha/Suttle campaign GOTV call last evening. The young lady making Suttle’s case couldn’t sell ice cubes in hell. The gist of the “case” was: (1) he got the AAA bond rating back; and (2) he hasn’t committed a crime. Even (2) is not absolutely 100% correct since he did skirt around the “over $20k expenditure requires council approval” law a couple of times. As for the bond rating, Moody’s changed (lowered) the qualifications for a AAA rating and just showing the ability to consistently raise taxes aren’t great backup for his claim.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Why did Dirt Bad Divas reportedly get paid $16, 325. for “office cleaning” by the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee? Is that the going rate for a fiscally conservative digging campaign?

  39. Icon says:

    REAL SLIM PICKINS politically here about ay SS?? Lee Terry is a bump on a log who’s basically collecting a Welfare check from the Gov!! And what’s with the Dems? Tom White must be a total jerk for running that “Terry’s Plunking a Lobbyist” TV ad with out having him caught on tape w his pants down! It might have been a lot closer had he not been so stupid to listen to the jerk that advised him to do it. Heineman is another bump on a log! I guess just sliding by here about without doing anything progressive, without getting your “T” caught in a ringer is nomination material for the Best of… BLAH!!!

  40. Anonymous says:

    Looks like Don Walton over at the LJS is trying to make a late push to get Ben Nelson a nomination as the LS Politician of the year. E Ben is “An ‘independent voice'” says the headline. It says he’s voted against his party more than any other Senator in 2010 and parted ways with Pres Obama more than any other Dem. Says Ben, “[The Congressional Quarterly Survey] confirms that I’m an independent voice in the Senate … I think the people of Nebraska want someone who represents them and their interests (and) works with people on both sides of the aisle.” To which our objective, neutral and impartial journalist Don Walton adds, “Bipartisan cooperation will be critical this year in a divided Congress, Nelson said.” Don’t know if Nelson actually said it as it wasn’t a quote. Perhaps Don just filled in what he thinks E Ben should have said and probably would have if appropriately coached.

    How could anyone ever think the journal star was (gasp) biased? Search me.

  41. Political Novice says:

    To Anon 11:08 AM: I realize I’m slow on the uptake but I’m intrigued. Do I understand correctly that the Suttle Recall Committee claimed $16,325 for actual office cleaning? That may be completely legitimate for all I know as I’m no expert on office cleaning (although it sounds good to me depending on the amount of time spent – I’m not proud). Where does one go to get such information? It would be fun to look at the expenditures from BOTH sides.

    I’m trying to keep up people . . . . I’m trying.

  42. MacDaddy says:

    “he’s voted against his party more than any other Senator in 2010 and parted ways with Pres Obama more than any other Dem”

    That’s kind of like being the tallest building in Kearney.

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