Omaha, NE.—With no Democratic candidate for governor in sight News Channel Nebraska has learned that the head of the Nebraska Democratic Party is considering putting her name on the top of the ticket but— get this— with no intention of campaigning for the job or winning.
In an exclusive interview with NCN, Jane Kleeb says its common practice in several states for the party chair and 2nd in command to place their names on the ballot when no other “viable” candidates have stepped up.
That strategy would find Kleeb listed “For Governor” and Vice-chairman Frank LaMere “For Lt. Governor.”
Kleeb describes the move as “protecting the Democratic Party brand.”
Lincoln Democrat Jane Raybould is running against Sen. Deb Fischer while Democrats Brad Ashford and Kara Eastman are set to square off in the May 15 primary, with the survivor to face Republican Congressman Don Bacon in November.
Kleeb believes the Senate and Omaha House races are winnable along with a handful of state legislative races.
But she admits she’s been unable to persuade any party regulars to take on Governor Pete Ricketts in 2018—most are looking ahead to an open seat in 2022 when a term-limited Ricketts would be unable to run for reelection.
Since the lone Democrat publicly thinking about the governor’s race next year is Tyler Davis— a barely known, former Republican—Kleeb is clearly concerned that an untested, scratching-for-dollars newcomer in the governor’s slot would damage the party’s image and hurt Democrats down the ballot.
Enter the Kleeb-LaMere ticket:
Kleeb: We will be the main Democratic Party advocates for our values and platform issues that our party stands for like the expansion of clean renewable energy and protecting the children’s health insurance program.
NCN: If you were to place your name on the ballot would you actively campaign?
Kleeb: Frank and I will actively campaign for the Democrats on the ballot.
NCN: If you won would you serve?
Kleeb: If the good people of Nebraska want to see a mom and a Native American hero run our state, then yes we would proudly serve. Our focus however will be making sure that Democrats on the ballot get elected.
While Democrats plot their next move, State Sen. Bob Krist, who is running as an independent, is the only current challenger to Ricketts. Krist’s unconventional bid and the Democrats inability to find a top-tier name has sparked speculation that Krist and Kleeb will cut some kind of deal that would find the Democrats and Krist double-teaming Ricketts.
Kleeb downplays that speculation while talking up the Kleeb-LaMere maneuver.