Hassebrook out; endorses Kerrey in Senate Dem. race

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March 7, 2012 - 6:00pm

University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook dropped out of the race for U.S. Senate Thursday and endorsed Bob Kerrey.

"Nine days ago, I said I would build a campaign that would be competitive for the race for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate," Hassebrook announced, standing before reporters at the Omaha Press Club. "I spent a lot of hours since then working to do just that. But in recent days, I've come to the realization that I would not succeed."
With tempered congeniality, Hassebrook said he will no longer seek the Democratic nod for Nebraska's open Senate seat. Instead, he's backing his brief rival, who stood by his side, former Governor of Nebraska and former Senator from the state: Bob Kerrey.

"I'm endorsing Sen. Kerrey because I believe his election is what's best for America, and what's best for Nebraska," Hassebrook said, adding he believes Kerrey will make the difficult choices necessary for the country, with a concern for the middle class and working poor.
"I want Bob Kerrey in the U.S, Senate because he recognizes that we too have a responsibility to invest in creating something better for our children and our grandchildren and our great-grand children," he said.
Hassebrook jumped into the race after Kerrey declined to run in early February. A few weeks later, however, Kerrey reversed his position. Hassebrook initially said he would remain a candidate. But in Thursday's press conference, he said the "excitement" around Kerrey's entrance in the race is what convinced him he couldn't compete.

Kerrey is a household name in the state and his stature in the race has turned Nebraska into a battleground state as Democrats seek to hold on to their majority in the Senate. Kerrey said he appreciates Hassebrook's support and will seek his counsel in the race.

"It isn't often in life or in politics that you see something like what Chuck has just done," Kerrey said. "And it's quite moving and I'm very grateful."
"I recognize in many ways I put you on the spot, and feel badly for it," he said. "But I'm grateful for our friendship and very much appreciate your support."
Hassebrook purposely missed the deadline to run for re-election to the Board of Regents in order to pursue his candidacy. He said he will return to the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska, where he has served as director for 16 years, and may also seek a fellowship to write and research.

He said there's been no discussion about a potential staff position if Kerrey's successful in his bid. But when asked about the Governor's race in 2014, he left the door open.

"I will be out of elected office in eight months or nine months, whatever it is, and I will be very likely, very possibly looking for a way to get back in," Hassebrook said. "But no, there's been no discussion of that."
The joint announcement drew swift reaction from Republicans. State Senator Deb Fischer who's running for the Republican nomination said the announcement sounded like the type of "wheeling and dealing" that "Nebraskans are sick and tired of seeing in Washington."

Referring to Kerrey's admission to Nebraska Watchdog that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had made certain "promises" to entice him into the race, Fischer said Kerrey "cut a secret deal" with Reid and has now done the same with Hassebrook.

Kerrey will face three little-known candidates in the Democratic primary. Republicans seeking the nod include Fischer, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and presumed front-runner Attorney General Jon Bruning.

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