In boon for Dems, Bob Kerrey will seek Nebraska Senate seat after all
Updated: 4:10 p.m. ET
Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator and governor of Nebraska, announced Wednesday he will run for the state's open Senate seat, reversing his decision from late last year.
In a statement, Kerrey said he would file paperwork to make the bid official on Wednesday. He will be running to replace outgoing Senator Ben Nelson, a moderate Democrat, who announced late last year that he would not seek re-election.
Many political observers believe Kerrey, a well-liked figure with high name recognition in the state, presents Democrats with the best chance to hold on to the seat in solidly red territory.
"Doing things the conventional way has never been my strong suit," Kerrey said, "this afternoon, I will file to become a candidate for the United States Senate in Nebraska."
Kerrey said that his previous decision not to seek the seat "was the easy one, not the right one."
"My commitment to serve Nebraska and America, and to be part of the debate about the challenges we face was too strong to dismiss," he continued. "My family supports this decision 100 percent. I look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks. We have a lot of work to do."
The 68-year-old former senator was a popular politician in Nebraska, but has not been on a ballot there since 1994. From 2001 to 2010, he served as the president of The New School in New York City. Kerrey ran for president in 1992 and lost the Democratic nomination to a young Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton.
Currently, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer, state Treasurer Don Stenberg and investment adviser Pat Flynn are all contending for the Republican nomination for the seat.
Kerrey's entrance into the race likely comes as welcome news to Democrats, who are fighting to maintain their slim 53-47 majority in the Senate.
Despite the difficult road ahead for Democrats - who are defending 23 Senate seats in the 2012 election, compared to Republicans' ten - Kerrey's announcement is the second piece of good news for the party in as many days.
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe announced Tuesday that she will not seek re-election in Maine - opening up the door for Democrats to pick up her seat.
Snowe is widely considered one of the Senate's most moderate voices, and has demonstrated a willingness to defy party leadership to vote with Democrats on a number of key issues.
According to the New York Times' Nate Silver, Snowe's retirement will dramatically increase Democrats' chances to win in Maine. Last December, Silver calculated that Republicans had an 85 percent chance of holding onto their Senate seat there in 2012, based on Snowe's popularity; In a Tweet on Tuesday, he estimated that the figure would drop to "20-30" percent in light of her decision not to seek re-election.
Shortly after Kerrey made his decision official, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) sent out an e-mail blasting him and his fellow Democrats for what they cast as Kerrey's "Flip-Flop Decision To Run For The U.S. Senate."
"As Nebraskans reacquaint themselves with Kerrey they will quickly recognize that living in Greenwich Village for so many years tends to change a person," said NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh, in a statement. "Whether it's his support for cap-and-trade, his advocacy for a government-run health care system or his desire to raise taxes on Nebraska small businesses, Bob Kerrey is a loyal supporter of the Obama agenda and he's simply out-of-step with Nebraska."
Democrats, meanwhile, have been aggressively targeting Senate Republicans for propagating what they describe as a "culture war" that aims to strip women of their health care rights.
"It is despicable the way Republicans have used their power to wage a war against women's health care," said DSCC chair Patty Murray in a statement. "But what is even more frightening is what Republican candidates around the country would do to women's health care if they were elected to the US Senate. It's time to end the culture wars and get to work for the middle class and Democratic women will play a key role in making that vision a reality."
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