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Kerrey proves again he's unpredictable
Love him or hate him, there's one thing you can't accuse Bob Kerrey of.
The former Nebraska governor and U.S. Senator is reportedly reconsidering his decision not to seek the seat being vacated by McCook native, Ben Nelson, himself a former Nebraska governor and incumbent U.S. Senator.
The announcement -- former Kerrey and Nelson campaign manager Paul Johnson swears "on a stack of Bibles, he has not made that final determination as of right now" -- that Kerrey might file by the Thursday deadline was typical.
If he does file, he will have outmaneuvered one of the political masters of the state, Gov. Dave Heineman, who passed the Feb. 15 deadline, as an incumbent, to file for Nelson's seat. Heineman, after all, is the guy who beat Tom Osborne -- in Nebraska! -- in a run for governor.
If you're new to the state, or new to politics, Bob Kerrey is a Lincoln native, pharmacy graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, lost part of one leg in Vietnam as a Navy SEAL and received the Medal of Honor.
He ran a chain of restaurants and fitness centers until 1982, when he narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Charles Thone for governor.
He passed on a bid for re-election in 1986, beat appointed incumbent David Karnes for Senate in 1988 and was re-elected in 1994 and retired in 2001.
He finished a weak third in the New Hampshire presidential primary in 1992 and has flirted with a presidential run at other times.
When he was president of the New School in New York City, Kerrey opposed the United Auto Workers' attempt to unionize the part-time faculty, negotiating with them only after several rulings by the National Labor Relations Board.
His tenure there was also marked by student protests, a vote of no confidence from the senior faculty, and he finally resigned on Jan. 1, 2011, six months before his contract expired.
He's certainly to the left of most Nebraskans, particularly greater Nebraska, voting against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, opposing the flag burning amendment, receiving a 4 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee on abortion issues, and supporting universal health care in his presidential campaign, despite giving few of his restaurant or fitness club employees health insurance. He's open to being accused of being a carpet bagger and an opportunist.
Still, many Nebraskans admire his independent streak, his star power -- the Medal of Honor as well as his one-time involvement with actress Debra Winger -- and his sense of humor.
"What can I say," he said of Winger. "She swept me off my foot."
Opponents have geared up to fight any Kerrey bid, but if he does decide to run, be sure plenty of national money will pour into the state to help preserve the seat for the Democratic Party.
Critics say Kerrey doesn't have a chance, because of his support of health care reform and other liberal positions. But Kerrey, Ben Nelson and even Sen. George W. Norris prove that Nebraskans are far from in lock step with every prescribed conservative position.
As anyone who has observed Cornhusker state politics over the past few decades can tell you, never count Bob Kerrey out.