Forget Republicans and Democrats.
A rancher and restaurateur from Callaway, Neb., is thinking about mounting an independent bid for U.S. Senate.
Jim Jenkins, 54, says he will spend the next month talking to Nebraskans and others to see whether he can raise money and garner support without a “D” or an “R” behind his name.
Jenkins, a Democrat up until a “few days ago,” said he would not run if he could not win.
“I'm totally, fully aware of the risks in what I'm trying to do, and I understand it may not work. But I've always had a lot of confidence in Nebraska voters. They're pretty independent-minded, and they might give me a shot,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins said he decided to run as an independent because he's grown “disgruntled” with the two major political parties over the past several years.
He said neither party looks to build “consensus” or to work together to solve the nation's problems. He also said he fits the independent label much closer than he does the Democratic one.
Jenkins, who considered running for governor in 2006 as a Democrat, said he has voted a split-ticket in the past, supporting both Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Gov. Dave Heineman.
“I've always thought of myself as a moderate and a centrist,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins is one of several people considering U.S. Senate bids this month in the wake of Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson's announcement that he would not seek a third term.
He is sure to face competition from candidates on both sides of the political aisle.
Three Republicans are currently seeking the GOP nomination. The three have a considerable head-start on Jenkins: Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and State Sen. Deb Fischer.
In addition, several Democrats are considering getting into the race, including former Nebraska Gov. Bob Kerry.
Jenkins was raised in Custer County but left Nebraska for about 20 years to attend school and work in the restaurant and business world in Boston, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.
He returned to Nebraska in 1996, developing a steakhouse chain known as Whiskey Creek. He sold that company a decade ago.
He currently owns Skeeter Barnes restaurants in Nebraska and Iowa. He also runs a cattle operation near Callaway, raising Angus beef. He also leases ranchland in other parts of the state.
If he gets into the race, Jenkins said he would use some of his own money, but he would not solely fund his campaign.
“If I can't raise money, then I'm not going to run. The notion that you can just go buy an office is appalling,” said Jenkins.
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