2011 Leavenworth Street Nebraska Politician of the Year

Mike Flood (Illustration by Peter Arkle for TIME)
Mike Flood (Illustration by Peter Arkle for TIME)

The PotY goes to Brad Ashford, for finally figuring out that he was never really a Republican.
Ha! We kid! We kid! Well, on the PotY part, anyway…


Back in February of this year, TIME Magazine (remember when TIME was a big deal each week? Alas…) had a list of 40 rising stars in American politics, under the age of 40.

Featured along with 39 others was the 35 year old Speaker of the Nebraska legislature (and that really lame “art” sketch).

But it is one thing to hope big things for someone, and a whole ‘nother to actually step onto the stage and do something.

Mike Flood did that, and is the Leavenworth Street Nebraska Politician of the Year.

TIME noted that Flood lives by a motto of “Negotiate or Perish” (or something to that effect), but little did they know that Flood would lead the negotiations for two of the biggest agreements in the state in 2011. First he lead the efforts to fix the Commission on Industrial Relations.

And then later, with the state and much of the country watching, he spearheaded the negotiations for an agreement on the Keystone XL Pipeline. On the CIR, people point to many who worked out the issues, but give Flood much of the credit for pushing it through. In the case of the pipeline however, Flood essentially had the issue dumped in his lap and had to get the parties to come to an amicable solution.

Everyone seemed to know what a solution could be, but no one was willing to go there until Flood banged it together. Flood not only lead them to water, but he got them to drink it as well.

That earns him the 2011 PotY.

We have already noted that Flood would be wise to strike politically while his iron is hot. What are his plans and ambitions for 2012? We wait to see how many clever ways we can use his name in a headline.


Others deserving an Honorable Mention this year?

We had quite a few who threw accolades on state Senator Scott Lautenbaugh for deftly drawing up the Congressional redistricting maps to keep the state Red (so to speak) for years to come.

And we had suggestions for both Democrats Jim Suttle and Jane Kleeb.

But we would mention a few notes on those two who were so much in the news.

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle deserves some credit for beating back a recall effort against him. But many would argue that it was a half-hearted effort, poorly organized and not exactly well-thought-out.

And then there is the eternal stain that Suttle and his camp received by busing homeless people from shelters and paying them to vote for Suttle. Frankly, that is still such a disgusting move that no one should forgive him or his people for it. It took a public outcry before Suttle would apologize, yet still try to claim that nothing was wrong.

Nonetheless, he prevailed in a poorly turned-out election. And while maybe not a street, at least he got a tax named for himself.


And then there is Jane Kleeb. She of the beanie babies, foam fingers, bumper stickers and flashlights against the Keystone XL Pipeline. As we pointed out many, many, many times, her refrain was continually about the Sandhills and Aquifer and a guy outside of Lincoln named Randy. Yet none — NONE — of these things ever really mattered to Jane and her cronies. Their only objective has been to stop the development of the Canadian Tar Sands Oil because of their global warming beliefs.

The fact that the original pipeline route went over the Sandhills was just a boon for her plan to fight the pipe one and the oil way or another. Note that after the compromise was reached to move it, she still declared her fight against it would continue. And that is because she simply used things like the Sandhills and people like Randy to accomplish her goal of supporting her radical enviro buddies from her DC days.

So did Jane win the fight? Well, we don’t really know yet. If the President signs the OK for the pipe — enabling conflict-free oil to flow in a time when conflict is at the top of the news; enabling thousands of jobs in a time when unemployment has continued to be at the top of the news — the answer is an emphatic NO.

And even if the President vetos the pipeline, it would likely be only until after the election, and the thing would still likely get built either under his or Mitt Romney’s eye.

Or, if the pipeline to Texas DOESN’T get built, guess where that oil goes? China.

So give Jane credit for this: she did help one industry succeed in Nebraska — the foam finger business. Which are made from petroleum byproducts. Not windmills.


Others you would like to mention? Have at it.

In any case, we can’t wait to start saying twenty-twelve. Has a nice ring to it.

See you next year.


And because someone asked (and apparently this falls somewhere in the 12 days of Festivus…) here are past winners of the Leavenworth Street Nebraska Politician of the Year:
2006 – Dave Heineman
2007 – Jon Bruning
2008 – The David Sokol Cabal
2009 – Ben Nelson
2010 – Dave Heineman and Lee Terry


  1. Macdaddy says:

    Now that Speaker Flood has done something that goes against Time’s lefty agenda, look for him to make their Top Republican Villains list. I’m sure that Time was hoping his negotiation skills included the usual Republican standard of giving liberals 98% of what they wanted. Heads up, Mike. Hell hath no fury like a liberal who doesn’t get her way.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good lesson going forward. You don’t have to actually do or accomplish anything. You just have to lead a few negotiations and you are the Politician of the Year…nevermind that the negotiations result in meaningless compromises which impact the lives of no one. I suppose that making controversial issues “just go away” without requiring any elected officials to take a stand requires a certain degree of talent. I would submit that actually solving public policy problems is far more impressive.

  3. anonymous says:

    Actually, I thought Flood got played by Jane Kleeb.
    Re: Flood and the “Fix the CIR?” Really? Likely a “we’ll have to wait & see” with Jane’s pipeline conquest, but didn’t radio talk shows in Omaha claim or insinuate (until Becka got lost his job) that Flood capitulated to Lathrop and gave in to the unions? If so, Flood also got played by the Unions and their legislative champion-in-chief, lathrop.
    Laughtenbaugh’s redistricting is generational and his false “left flank” attack on Nordquist and Mello distracted them whilst the Omaha/Douglas Democratic district Strongholds were cleverly carved up. – Now that’s a political grand master!

  4. Matt Hansen (Former President Nebraska Young Democrats) says:

    I nominate Matt Pinkerton as politician of the year. His ability to drive his party into the ground has allowed young democrats to thrive and will lead to landslide victories in 2012 for the Democrats.

  5. You can take the Politician out of the Bayou... says:

    But you can’t take the Bayou out of the Politician.

    Rep. Fortenberry will never run because him winning in the first place was a fluke. As an earlier Commenter noted, he simply won’t risk it. He’s got a great gig as it is.

    With respect to Senator Mike Flood, sorry but he and Gov. Heineman were out-manuevered by Bod Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb. By any real benchmark, Jane Kleeb is Nebraska Politician of the Year.

    Sorry guys. We’ll cut you a break because the Truth hurts and obviously, you’re still hurting about that.

    @ SS: Here’s what’s wrong with your 2011 – and past year – selections. They’re all men in suits. A mere microcosm of the same group that brought us the United States of a Mess.

    2006 – Dave Heineman
    2007 – Jon Bruning
    2008 – The David Sokol Cabal
    2009 – Ben Nelson
    2010 – Dave Heineman and Lee Terry

    Nebraskans are ready for a woman; but not one who also has Nelnet baggage.

  6. To Mr. Hanson... says:

    While all this Matt Pinkerton bashing might be amusing to you…the facts are just the opposite Under Matt’s watch the Young Republicans have:

    1. Started two new chapters in the state,
    2. Had the largest delegation to a national convention in recent memory,
    3. Group was nominated for 3 national awards including a win for one of his members for National YR Man of the Year,
    4. Nebraska was awarded the Nov. 2012 National YR Board Meeting.

    What have the YD’s done this year except watch their only federal candidate retire like a cowardly skunk.

  7. Lee Atwater says:

    @Matt Hansen – If the Young Dems were doing so well, where is the dem bench? D.E.A.D.

    If your highest hopes are on the likes of Heath Mello, I’d suggest a change in leadership for your organization are in order.

  8. Matt Hansen says:

    At this point we could put up a democrate with a pulse and they would trounce your stable of misfits. Brunning, Stenberg, Fischer…really? We will own that seat next November.

  9. Lee Atwater says:

    Good to see the Young Dems are still smokin a lot of dope. Come on Matt. You’ve got to be kidding.

    That is too funny. How can ANYONE take you serious.

  10. Kortezzi says:

    Anon @ 11:36 a.m. – – You are right on about Flood. He negotiated a CIR bill that was much weaker than it needed to be to rein in the runaway costs of Omaha public employee union contract giveaways. And he may have negotiated a deal on the KXL (which helped Heinemann save face, I think). But he didn’t have to play ball and give Kleeb a partial victory, since the re-routing deal would have collapsed altogether without Flood’s involvement.

    Politician of the Year? Well, I suppose so, if negotiation of compromises were something to be proud of. But stopping bad compromises would be a better accomplishment.

  11. Lee Atwater says:

    Matt –
    First, to complete this grand scheme you have plotted – who are your candidates? Which candidate will eventually run for CC2? If Fort runs, who will run for CC1? And, who is your candidate for Senate?

    You have NO bench. Neither Howard or Ewing will win. You couldn’t get the job done in PERFECT conditions for Dems and now they are not close to perfect. To that point, Obama will not win the CC2 Electoral vote either.

    CC1? Who? Really…who? The GOP bench is VERY deep in CC1. There is not a single Dem who can win that seat. Beutler? Sure will go over well that he broke promises and raised taxes right AFTER re-election.

    Senate? You’ve got nothing.

    I would expect the leader (Chair/President/whatever) of the Young Dems to have SOME game. You’ve shown me nothing. Zip, zippo. No wonder the Dem bench is depleated and not looking any better for the future.

  12. Matt Hansen (The Real One) says:

    I am Matt Hansen, president of the NYD and this is the first post I’ve made on this blog. All of these previous posts under my name have been made by someone impersonating me.

    I’ll be contacting Matt Pinkerton directly to let him know that I did not write those posts about him.

    I would appreciate if whoever is impersonating me would stop and have the courage to post under their real name.

    -Matt Hansen

  13. Matt Hansen,
    Don’t bother, the damage has been done. I will take great pleasure in destroying you next November. You and your ilk make me sick. Ivy Harper, Gary and Ace and everyone else. The Nebraska Democratic party is a joke. Have fun spinning your wheels for the next 11 months. Matt maybe you should find a new hobby and learn how to grow a pair.

    Matt Pinkerton (The Real One)

  14. TexasAnnie says:

    Street Sweeper:
    It is disturbing when persons impersonate others; those of us who do not know the two Matts are led astray. Please explain: why do their names show up in green letters as opposed to the usual black?

  15. Scott Lautenbaugh says:

    I was robbed! Lol

    As I said last week, Speaker Flood was the obvious choice. Again, the Speaker’s job is different, and he’s been masterful at it. No one there denies that. The criticism of Flood on here has not been fair or accurate.

    As to my one fan above (posting no. 6), I appreciate your praise. However- and I don’t point this out to take a shot at you- you haven’t managed to spell my name correctly. Doesn’t that really underline the point that, when you read the list of past “winners”, my name would have been a particularly obscure addition? Assuming a piano doesn’t fall on the mysterious Sweeper, and this blog rolls on for another 5 years, people in 2016 would look back at the list of past honorees and say “Who was that Lautenbaugh guy in 2011?”

    Now, if Lake Ashland is full by then, we’ll see . . . .

  16. Senator L,

    The obvious response would be: “I guess it’s the guy who they named Lake Lautenbaugh after….”

    Happy New Year’s Eve everyone.
    Party hardy, but don’t drive if you’re boozin’ it up!


  17. Anonymous says:

    Appreciate the sentiment Senator L but I disagree. At best your argument’s conclusion is that the role of the Speaker is to be a facilitator and negotiator, so it isn’t Mike Flood’s fault that his compromises are meaningless, it’s just his job. Well, fine, I suppose, but then Speakers of the Legislature shouldn’t expect much praise when they do their job. This isn’t a forum to debate the role of the Speaker or whether a Speaker should champion and fight for his/her values or abandon them so his/her colleagues can escape a serious debate on important issues.

    The fact remains that Mike Flood got PotY because of his role in negotiating CIR reform and the Pipeline. I would like someone to explain how the bills that passed on those two subjects are at all worthy of praise or attention. It seems everyone in the world acknowledges that the state of collective bargaining in Nebraska will not change at all because of Flood’s compromise. And it seems to me that the Pipeline issue was resolved by Obama before the Legislature took any action. So his two crowning achievements accomplished nothing other than demonstrating that he knows how to pass a bill by watering it down enough that both sides don’t care if it passes.

    And buck up about your name being misspelled. There have been plenty of Heinemanns and Brunnings around here and they have both won before

  18. Macdaddy says:

    Anon 9:15: Obama didn’t resolve jack. He punted it to the next President. Jane Kleeb and Dave Heineman tried to give him cover for that but Mike Flood used his jujitsu skills to resolve the “issues” Heineman was hiding behind. With that small accomplishment, that then gave the national GOP a nice neat little box in which to place Obama. We’ll find out in February which choice Obama made. My bet is that he votes against jobs and against energy security.

  19. 9:15 says:

    You’re partially correct, Mac. You’re correct in that Obama punted this issue of whether the pipeline should be constructed. He caved to environmentalist nut jobs. But the issue before the Legislature was whether the state would allow a pipeline to be built over the Ogallala aquifer. That issue was resolved when Obama announced that he would not approve the proposed route and punted the final decision until 2013. I, for one, had no problem with the pipeline going over the aquifer, but Obama caved to the loons and took that route off the table. Mike Flood and the Legislature did nothing to make that happen. Obama’s announcement came during the Special Session, but before Flood had negotiated the grand compromise. Then Flood announced that Transcanada agreed to move the route away from the aquifer after Obama said he wouldn’t approve the Pipeline over the aquifer (ie. you can’t fire me, I quit)

    So what issue did Mike Flood and his jujitsu skills resolve?

    You’re correct about the Heineman part too. So that makes you about half right 🙂

  20. Julie Schmit-Albin says:

    Congrats to the Speaker for being named PoTY. It’s well deserved if you look back even beyond a year to his entire tenure as Speaker. And Senator L: I would personally lobby against turning Ashland into a lake. My Mom was born and raised there. It was Mayberry RFD to me growing up and my grandparents’ home is up in those eastern hills. Happy New Year!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I doubt there is a proper geologic substrata to support a Lake Ashland. I also suspect the guy who invented PowerPoint, and his pal who started Microsoft, will sit by idle and let this happen. Not to mention the Saap Bros family nor the astronaut. But go ahead by all means we need more places to fish in eastern Nebraska:-)

    Congrats to Speaker Flood!

    For honorable mention how about……..either the LJS or OWH? They are as political as they come:-)

  22. NE Voter says:

    Sorry, but Flood’s a weak choice for POTY. I understand that there is a long tradition in Nebraska to heap praise on the Speaker of the legislature (remember how much love Brashear got before he cashed in as lobbyist) but Kleeb and BOLD beat him like a tambourine, embarrasing Flood and Heineman in the process.

  23. Anonymous says:

    NE Voter; you must not have been paying attention to what has happened over the past year. Kleeb is nothing more than a pawn in all of this. She may have made some noise, more of an irritant than anything else. But to say she has much in the way of political influence is a real stretch. Sure she was the figure head for the noisy group of oil haters, but she did very little to change the minds of those in the chambers of the legislature. IF she had any clout at all then Sen Ken Haar’s efforts to force a special session would have worked, but that was an EPIC fail. It took the Governors need for further political office to make the special session happen. Then when the session happened the bill was going nowhere, trust me that bill was DOA:)

    To really get an understanding of just what Speaker Flood as able to do, the actions he took, one needs to read the letter HE sent to Sec Clinton. Jane never sent a letter that changed the Sec Of State Clinton’s mind, Flood did. Then who is it who got the big bad pipeline company to agree to a change that was not going to happen, FLOOD did.

    Then look at the effort it took to get the legislature to agree to a 2 million dollar potential price tag. Then the Speaker outlined the need to have Nebraska pay for a enviro study, thereby removing the doubt of motive on the part of Trans Canada. Kleeb influenced nobody in the legislature. All she did was trick some believers into thinking she would get arrested with them, but chickened out in the end and let her followers take the rap. Now is that “Leadership, if it is you are about the most dense fool I know of.

    Now that was only one sticky wicket the Speaker worked through. Now how about CIR reform. Did Kleeb have anything to do with that? NOPE And again it was Speaker Flood who brought the competing parties together. It was Flood who spent late nights off campus with the real players in CIR reform to hammer out a compromise. Kleeb was nowhere to be seen.

    There were the Speaker Priority Bills, the dealing with Executive branch, the courts, and many other issues to boot. Oh and all of this is done on a salary of $12,000 BEFORE taxes. With NO benefits and NO SUGAR DADDIES like Kleeb has.

    So really are you that dense or just so wedded to the cause you cant see out of the rut your in?

    Most likely you will continue with your drivel, but we come to expect that from you.

  24. Anonymous says:

    There sure is a lot of breast beating and credit taking going on here, but what really is the deciding factor in the pipeline issue is the same as in every single political decision ever made, the flow of money into the proper pockets. Face the facts folks, our government is for sale. Any decision on the pipeline will be determined by which sugar daddy gave the most money to have the decision made the way they wanted it to be.

  25. ricky says:

    Speaker Flood peaked too early it looks like. Because of term limits the session of the Nebraska Legislature which opens this week will be Flood’s last.
    And if he is not running for the Senate seat vacated by Benny, what will become of the Speaker?
    He could announce for Governor, but Rick Sheehy has already said he wants to become the next Gov, and the election is not till 2014; Sheehy will be employed by the State of Nebraska till then and not so for Speaker Flood.
    Perhaps when Flood leaves Lincoln, others will seek to repeal his “fetal pain” law, which remains unconstitutional but so far unchallenged in the courts.
    I realize that Speaker Flood’s fetal pain bill was aimed at keeping Dr Carhart from operating in Nebraska, but the measure hurts women in too many ways for me.
    So I won’t regret his absence from the Nebraska Legislature.

    ricky from omaha

    PS Happy New Year!

  26. Anonymous says:

    There is a difference between a legislator and a chief executive. It is thus stupid to call any legislator useless for having “lead a few negotiations” and then damn him for not “solving public policy problems.” If you want someone to “make the trains run on time” you want a Mussolini. If that’s your idea of good government, your New Year’s resolution should be to read the U S Constitution and figure out what makes freedom happen. And it isn’t maximum efficiency in government, for that is incompatible with freedom. Houses and Senates are deliberative, they talk and then they vote. When someone in a legislature puts their foot down and forces an outcome, they have destroyed representative democracy, freedom, which is necessarily more sloppy, confused, and slower than tyranny.

    In a free society, voting legislatures painfully finesse every act of government by talking and talking and talking. Yes, it sucks. But that is what keeps government from shoving your ass into an oven. So get used to it. It is either slow sloppy freedom or efficient hell.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Anon 7:30, you obviously hold no significant office and are clueless to at least state level offices. Maybe the federal folks are for sale but I bet its less often than you think. Those who are bought and paid for are just like J Kleeb and all the lobbyists. When you get down to the very basics of who is making the decisions in “Government” it has always involved self interest, whether financial or moral. Perhaps just accepting this to be the base truth of governing should help you sleep better. If you want to change things get out there and share your message. Maybe you will find others who agree. Then you can build a base of support aod get yourself elected:-) Or you can sit on the sidelines and complain. It doesn’t take much to get elected, just show up, look at Sen Wallman añ elected Dem.

    Ricky, you are still nothing more than a minor irratant on the south end of a north bound ass (D)!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Anon 9:56, you obviously hold some significant office and desire to maintain the status quo, which keeps your pockets full of bribe money.

  29. Julie Schmit-Albin says:

    Ricky, Speaker Flood’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks gestation is not going to be repealed when he leaves the Legislature. He had the vision to pursue this approach that has Carhart flying to Maryland three weeks out of every month with his late term abortion business. That is a good thing and there is a reason why LB 1103 has not been challenged nor has it been challenged in any of the other States that have passed it. The Speaker and his staff studied Carhart vs. Gonzalez and laid down a meticulous record in both committee and on the floor. That paved the way for other States to follow Nebraska’s lead and do it right. LB 1103 is just one part of the Speaker’s legacy but a huge one for pro-life Nebraskans who are indebted to him for his vision and leadership.

  30. Mr. Blackwell says:

    Hello again Leavenworth Street followers, here is my Blackwell 2011 List to liven up your New Years Holiday.

    5. Brad Ashford
    Senator Ashford your recent switch away from the republican party came as no surprise.
    Speaking of change, isn’t time you get a haircut darling, your hair almost covers your eyes

    4. Heath Mello
    Your plans on legislative and congressional redistricting this past legislative year did not go far
    Take my political advice button, don’t ever mess with a State Senator that hangs out at Cigarro’s bar

    3. Jon Bruning
    Jon, the press was not kind to you this year and you have major problems in your senate race
    Maybe your campaign would do much better if you hired Jim Suttle’s boys Gary and Ace

    2. Mike Flood
    You may have been Sweeper’s Politician of the year with your ability to end the pipeline debate
    If you want to go statewide baby take my advice, get rid of the nerdy glasses and have Jane Kleeb control your dinner plate.

    1. Jane Flemming Kleeb
    Jane Fleeming Kleeb writing about you has become a Blackwell Holiday tradition,
    Take some friendly advice sweetie, quit wearing that FFA jacket in support of liberal causes that borderlines on sedition.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Anon 10:28, indeed I do hold a sign position:-) But the cheap shot on bribe money is soooo far from the truth. Doesn’t matter as you wouldn’t know how to read a tax return or bank statements. I’ve worked for a long time and have made my way on my own. Again you lob out anon comments and accuse a person of crimes. You are what’s wrong with this country:-) it isn’t those who work and get ahead that is bringing our great country to its knees rather it people like you who want, no demand, to have wealth you never worked for. Get over it, go work hard and accept your lot in life.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Anon 5:45, You don’t know squat about me, so please spare us the benefit of your seventh grade education. You’ve made your own way up to chief dishwasher at McDonalds and believe your own fantasies about being a self-made man. Just because you’ve managed to save enough tips to buy yourself a Pentium 3 Dell doesn’t make you an on-line Einstein.

  33. Ira Knee says:

    How amusing! An anonymous poster, tossing insults at another anonymous poster for anonymously tossing insults. Does anyone else see the irony in this?

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