#NESEN Rumor Central

We have always been of the opinion that more information is better than less, so with that let us start flailing away at what MAY happen, now that Ben Nelson has decided to retire rather than face the voters in 2012.

For the GOP…

Who IS in:

  • Attorney General Jon Bruning (currently probably highest poll #s)
  • State Treasurer Don Stenberg (has a strong base, getting national $$$)
  • State Senator Deb Fischer (more or less unknown, can she raise $$$?)
  • investment guy Pat Flynn (side note)
  • dude Spencer Zimmerman (side show)

Who COULD be in:

  • Governor Dave Heineman (but we just don’t think so…)
  • Pinnacle Bank Pres. Sid Dinsdale (much more likely now)
  • NE1, Lincoln area Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (hmm…more below)
  • NE2 Omaha area Congressman Lee Terry (nope)

For the Dems…

  • Former Governor, Senator, uber liberal New School Pres., Cosmic Bob Kerrey (with his current trial balloon for Senate, not to be confused with his trial balloon to run for 2008 Senate, not to be confused with his 2005 trial balloon to run for Mayor of New York City)
  • State Senator Steve Lathrop (would prolly rather run for Governor in 2014; could be convinced?)
  • former Lt. Gov. Kim Robak (her name is always thrown out; possible)
  • Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler (not likely)
  • State Senators Heath Mello or Bill Avery (Sac lambs)
  • Bright Eyes lead singer Conor Oberst (national liberal Dems wet dream)


So, try this one on for size:

If Congressman Lee Terry or Jeff Fortenberry jumped into the Senate race, it would be a scramble of Mad Mad Mad Mad World proportions to get their seats. Well, certainly for Terry’s anyway.

But we understand that Terry has already considered this and is more content moving up in the House Leadership (where he should be a subcommittee chair soon).

But Fort? Well, we were directed to a certain retirement for some evidence of movement. Some have speculated that State Board of Education member Bob Evnen is exactly the type of person — good credentials on the issues — who could/would run for Fortenberry’s seat if Fort decided to drop out and run for Senate. Well, Evnen recently announced his decision to not run for reelection to the Board in 2013.

Or, if Fort jumps, maybe Unicameral Speaker Mike Flood? He could coast in, theoretically. But what if Dem Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler was interested? Well, then you could have a serious race.


Now, keep in mind this is pretty much pure speculation on our part (and our source’s part), but hey. If He didn’t want speculation on the internets, God should not have invented Al Gore.

And, we always suspected Governor Heineman was not really interested in running for Senate, so we are going to conclude that he is not interested in going forward. But hey, don’t quote us on that. With his knuckle-ball flying throughout the whole Keystone Pipeline debate, we never know where Heineman’s pitch is going to land. For all we can tell, this was his plan all along.

But we just don’t think so.

We are now of the opinion more than ever that Sid Dinsdale will get in the race. If the field expands, he could theoretically have just as good a chance as anyone — but he would need to get his name out there and raise big dough in a hurry.

And if the field does expand with another two or three serious candidates, that could leave an opening for someone like Stenberg — who has a pretty solid base to work with — to come through in the end.

Deb Fischer could have a some sort of a shot, but she would absolutely need to pick up the phone and be dialing, dialing, dialing for dollars. Small town newspaper articles will not win the race for her.

So that really still puts Attorney General Jon Bruning out front for the time being. If things really shake out further, his name could be just about anywhere.

NOW let the games begin.


And we should note that while it should be clear that we did not like the way Senator Nelson voted, we have stated numerous times here that just about anyone you ask liked Ben Nelson personally. He was the kind of guy that many liked getting a beer with, or so it was said.

Like him or hate him, he entered the arena and ran for Governor back when very few thought he had any chance to win. Had he not thought about it, you would be referencing former Governor (Senator?) Hoppner these days.

At some point, we will miss putting up his ubiquitous photo.


  1. Bam says:

    Nelson WAS as non-partisan as you could get in this state. It may be a looooonnnnnnng time before the Dems find one like that again.

  2. Anon says:

    Ben Nelson for Politician of the Year. He surveyed the landscape and rightfully concluded there was no way he could win. He didn’t have to put his family through it and, oh by the way, he already got what he wanted anyway. Going down in history as the key player in Obamacare.

  3. Speculation says:

    Evnen for CD-1 if the Fort runs for Senate? Maybe. I figured Evnen was gearing up to run for Fulton’s empty seat in the Unicameral.

  4. Jacob says:

    Should Fortenberry take his shot now? There aren’t many (if any) chances left at an open Senate seat before CD 1 is swallowed up by Adrian Smith in the next redistricting…

  5. Out in the 3rd says:

    In the 3rd CD, we’re all placing our hopes on Fort not to move to the Senate. We figure the best chance we’re ever going to get to double the IQ of or Representative in Congress is when Fort beats A-Drone in the 2022 primary. It’s not likely we’ll ever have a representative who scores over 95.

  6. ricky says:

    Now Senator Nelson has both the Republicans and the Democrats mad at him, or was it always that way?
    Now we probably will see Mr Bruning as the next Senator from Nebraska and boy will he be in over his head.
    What a joke the banker might win? What ego that guy must have to think because he has too much money people will vote for him.
    The state of politics in Nebraska is enough to want to make you move to a more enlightened place, like maybe San Francisco. I used to live there and it’s really cool and liberal.

    ricky from omaha

  7. RIP Sen Utter. says:

    State Senator Dennis Utter passed away this afternoo. What a loss for his family and for the Legislature. RIP Senator.

  8. IGB says:

    Fortenberry is egotistical, narcissistic, and down right annoying*. I can’t see the powers that be giving him much help in a Senate run.

    *Yes, I know most politicians are but Fort is an extra special case.

    PS For the love of God, stop with the prolly.

  9. DT says:

    News flash: Sid Dinsdale doesn’t have to raise a dime. The half-joke around Grand Island is that if Buffett is the state’s wealthiest citizen, the Dinsdales aren’t far behind (the family is from Palmer, just north of G.I.). The truth is, Sid can self-finance his campaign – easily.

  10. Some Thoughts says:

    I can’t even begin to speculate on who else might enter this race. I was so totally 180 degrees wrong on whether Nelson would stay in, I can’t even imagine what will happen now.

  11. Street Sweeper How Dare You!!! says:

    Why do you continue to trivialize Air Force veteran Spenser Zimmerman who is the ONLY pipeline proponent. He is also the only critically acclaimed author unless you included Bruning Pro-Choice college papers. Here is but a taste of what true leadership will sound like when Spenser Zimmerman win!!! Ladies and Gentleman I give you “EPOCH POINT”

    “The Epoch Point is a religious historical conspiracy thriller that follows evil throughout the existence of mankind, revealing the constant conflict between God and the devil, good and evil. Robert Davis is a young Airman fresh out of Air Force basic training who, after being held captive in China, suddenly finds himself unraveling the most immense conspiracy in history. On duty during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he soon uncovers hidden facts suggesting Russian and Iraqi involvement. While exploring abandoned military barracks at Kessler AFB in Mississippi, Davis and his friends discover the diary of Lee Harvey Oswald. Suddenly the Airmen find themselves the target of mysterious agents. As the clues surface, an evil emerges powerful enough to rewrite the entire history of humanity, not to mention kill two of his good friends. Before long the conspiracy takes on a supernatural form, marked by lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcanoes, the wrath of God. Davis finds himself torn by the unbelievable realization that God has a message for him. Nothing could prepare him for the final suspenseful twist the story takes, a Da Vinci style revelation that reaffirms his belief in Christ.”

  12. Who? says:

    At this point the Dems might as well run down to the tipi in the middle of Lincoln and recruit someone from the Occupy site. They claim to have all the answers. And just look at the amazing things they’ve done so far.

  13. Full steam says:

    Just because your name is Dinsdale doesn’t mean you can write a check and make it to the Senate. Nebraska voters typically reject people they’ve never met, while some may know the name, it may not translate.

  14. anonymous says:

    Bob Kerrey’s name is dropped every election cycle since he left, but he realistically cannot run. A growingly larger share of the electorate has no idea who he is since they weren’t voting when he was in office. The guy has been AWOL from the NE political scene, let alone residential scene for over a decade.

    Ne Dems strongest contender who won’t run is probably Beutler, but he’d have to really be worked hard and promised huge DSCC and other $, including Nelson ponying up to give up the fun he’s having looking out his window at a downtown full of tower cranes. Does he have it burning in him? He just turned 67.

    Ne Dems also have Suttle. But Suttle is already too consumed with running for his own re-election. Too hard to raise money for both at basically the same time. Practically speaking, he’d have to abandon mayor re-election and he’s not going to do that.

    Ne Dems can look to Jane Kleeb, but she’s having too much fun on Holland’s dime. She’s paid well. She gets to hand pick her battles and she’s home with her family at night. She’s content, but could think over running for NE Leg now that Senator Utter has passed away and his term would have been up in 2012.

    Ne Dems could look to Scott Kleeb, but he is too busy building his energy efficiency company and trying to make money.

    Steve Lathrop: Has the money. Has good resume. Has the interest. Has Support. Doesn’t have statewide name recognition that “Mayor of Lincoln” running would have. Lathrop needs time to build his name recognition.

    Kim Robak. No way. No statewide name recognition. Lobbyist married to lobbyist, lobbying and making handsome money lobbying. Can’t overcome.

    Anne Boyle: 69 years old. Likely not running for anything again. Played the roll of loyal Dem, loyal opposition in last Gov race. Unlikely to do it again.

    Mike Fahey, age 68. Hmmmm. Has money. Well liked. Former Mayor of Omaha during boom years. Likely to think it over.

    I would guess Beutler, Lathrop and Fahey will get recruited hardest by DNCC. Beutler and Lathrop may want to pass thinking Governor race next time would be more realistic, but one cannot rule out both wanting to run for Governor next time.

    This could be an interesting race if either Beutler, Lathrop or Fahey get in, but none will get in if either DSCC or Nelson or both are unwilling to give them some seed money, probably big seed money. It might be worth the investment of a few million in order to keep RSCC “busy.” Don’t expect Obama help other than TV buys for western Iowa media market. Laughtenbaugh’s redistricting sealed that.

    If none of above plays out, look for a romp and possibly the dreaded “uncontested.”

  15. Macdaddy says:

    Sweeper, in rebuttal to one of your later paragraphs, I know plenty of people who do not like Ben Nelson personally, do not trust him as far as they could throw him, and would definitley not want to have a beer with him, especially if he was handing out the beers. This is all personal. They actually don’t mind how he voted.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ben Nelson now has the opportunity to set his Democratic legacy in stone. He can stand up for real Democratic principles in the Senate. Then he can pay the DSCC back the $1 million that they wasted on all those television ads so that they can help a Democratic candidate in another state. And, finally, he could hand the remainder of his $3 million war chest to the NDP so that it can rebuild itself.

    By doing all this, Ben Nelson would be true to his own words, “Public office is a place for public service, not personal profit.” To do practically anything else will just demonstrate what a hypocrite he has always been.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Can’t see DNC sitting this one out without a viable candidate. They have done it before and they might want to piggyback on Kleeb’s newfound inroads into Nebraska’s red armour. Lathrop would be the most attractive and energetic candidate. He’s smart, articulate and wouldn’t run out of breath running all over the State. Fahey, can’t see him being able to handle a statewide race. Beutler, possibly, but not as good on the stump as Lathrop. Remember, the guy stands in courtrooms all day getting big settlements for his clients. He is truly the Dem’s best bet. If they did throw lots of money at him, it would get him name recognition for a gubernatorial run if he didn’t prevail against the GOP nominee. A Lathrop/Bruning match-up would be something though. Jane, definitely running for Legislature. Bring it. The NEGOP now has her in their sites unlike the last go-round.

  18. omahaskyline says:

    latest names being tossed out (some more serious than others)-

    Chuck Hagel (switches to Dem or Indep, plays up bi-partisanship centralist theme)
    Mike Fahey (very appealing but would have to leave the Ozarks)
    Lady Gaga (uses it as a platform for gay rights and to be w her Nebraska boy)
    Chris Beutler (seems to be the favorite right now)
    Jane Kleeb (effective statewide experience w BOLD/pipeline fight)
    Amanda McGill (fresh, young, can she be turned into the new Elizabeth Warren?)
    Eric Crouch (yes, they were serious)
    Ernie Chambers (ran statewide before to raise issues, but locked into Ben Gray/OPS/B Council fight)
    Steve Exon (I knew JJ, he’s no JJ)

  19. Anonymous says:

    if Fort runs, there could be a lot of good candidates who consider. one strong candidate would be John Orr, the Washington County GOP Chairman and son of former Gov. Kay Orr. he’s got good name id, the ability to raise money and he’s very conservative. he would get tea party folks on board in droves. not sure if he gets in but he’d be a good candidate for true conservatives.

  20. Anonymous says:

    john orr runs a successful business and has actually made a decent living in the private sector. you can call him dumb if you like but people like you said bush was too dumb to win. bring it on

  21. Guffaw says:

    Dumber than rocks?

    Can’t be any dumber than CD1’s current representative. Someone with private sector experience would certainly be a welcome addition to our delegation. Whoever this John Orr guy is, I want to meet him!

  22. Reginald VelJohnson says:

    NE Dem Senate candidate: That younger Buffett kid who just moved back to NE. The World-Herald did a story on him a few months ago….. $$ quickly, self-funded. Ride the coattails of the ‘anti-establishment, more taxes for the rich’ vigor. He’ll get plenty of good media coverage since Uncle Warren owns the OWH now.

    NDP, consider it free advice for now. You can pay me later if you’d like.

    He’ll lose by 15 points still. But that’s who you will want to recruit.

  23. I guess those really were issue ads says:

    I think Nelson’s retirement just proves how afraid the Republicans were of facing him because, like, he would have won had he decided to run because, well, just because, and the fact that so many Republicans were scrambling to run against him just shows fear. Total fear. Those fraidy cat Republicans. Scads of ‘em angling to run against Ben is just proof, PROOF I say, of how afraid the Republicans were of a fight for the Senate. Cowards, the lot of them.

    While Ben Nelson, on the other hand, has bravely run away.

    (Here’s where I would post a link — is such things were permitted — of the youtube clip from Monty Python’s Holy Grail where Brave Sir Robin turned about and gallantly he chickened out, bravely taking to his feet he beat a very brave retreat …)

    (Sorry to repost, but I put this up in an earlier thread that had evidently run out of steam. Reposting to increase the chances that Dennis has an opportunity to respond.)

  24. Lee Atwater says:

    Skyline…don’t know what they are talking about with Eric Crouch. He is a Republican.

    As for a few others mentioned?
    Fahey: Would get killed over sweetheart deals to police and fire that have put Omaha in such a horrible pension mess.
    Beutler: Those tax hikes right after re-election won’t fly
    Steve Exxon? Fresh off getting his but kicked in Bellevue?
    J Kleeb? Sure would be fun exposing her for the nut job she really is.
    Robak: Prolly the most legit possible candidate mentioned so far but would have to make up too much ground in state wide name ID, funds…

    The ONLY viable candidate mentioned anywhere is a New Yorker. Not only is he a New Yorker he spent most of the preceeding years in DC. I can see the “From where?? NEW YORK CITY” ads aleady. Not going to happen.
    Suttle? Come on Jim! YOU beat the recall…right? You can do it! (***this would be all kinds of fun***)
    Lathrop: Will quickly and easily be exposed when he steps up to state wide.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Is anyone hearing rumors about a Tony Fulton run for congress if Fortenberry runs for Senate? Strong buzz about that today in some circles.

  26. Fullofit says:

    Heard the same thing about Senator Fulton at lunch today. Looks like everyone’s exploring their options. I also heard that it’s getting a little hot in the kitchen for Jon Bruning in the senate race… and that he might drop out… and settle for governor.

  27. Bob Loblaw says:

    To: Reginald VelJohnson

    I don’t think that Buffett Jr. Jr. is eligible to run. He’s not 30 years old. Damn constitution and all.

    No charge for the legal advice 🙂

  28. Fullofit is...full of it says:

    Bruning…the clear front runner…is NOT dropping out of the race. Jeessh, the stuff people try to make up. Nice try though.

  29. JB no way says:

    Bruning’s ship has sailed. He has tied himself too closely to the crazy factions to be taken seriously. He can’t even keep campaign staff on board, much less run a successful campaign.

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