Bob Kerrey now appears to have the undivided loyalty of the Nebraska Democratic Party.
The awkwardness between those who supported Kerrey's bid for the U.S. Senate and those who wanted to honor their commitments to Chuck Hassebrook — the NU regent from Lyons who ran after Kerrey initially passed up a bid — ended Thursday, as Hassebrook dropped out of the race.
Hassebrook also threw his support behind Kerrey, paving the way for his supporters to rally behind the former Nebraska governor and senator.
"It makes everything less awkward," said Randy Adkins, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "It gives them one candidate.
"In that sense, people aren't going to be divided."
Hassebrook ended his campaign in an appearance with Kerrey in Omaha. He said he held no grudge and declined to discuss his earlier comments about Kerrey going back on his "word" about running.
"I'm moving beyond that," said Hassebrook.
Hassebrook entered the race after several major Democrats declined to run. In doing so, he gave up the chance to run for re-election to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
When Kerrey then decided to enter the race, some Democrats privately said they could no longer support Hassebrook, because they believed Kerrey had the best chance to win. Others stood firmly behind the NU regent, notably Vince Powers, the state party's national committeeman.
Powers now supports Kerrey and expects others will as well.
"Hassebrook has been a prince throughout this whole thing. He had every reason to feel mistreated — not that anybody consciously intended this," said John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "But we're going to miss him as a regent."
Hassebrook's decision to step down from the Senate race came too late to remove his name from the May 15 primary ballot.
He says he plans to return to his full-time job as head of the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska-based advocacy group that supports small farmers and rural economic development.
Kerrey said he appreciated Hassebrook's support, given the circumstances.
"It's quite moving," Kerrey said.
Now, with Hassebrook out, Kerrey will focus on the general election campaign and on defeating the Republican who survives a competitive primary.
Three high-ranking state Republicans are battling for the nomination: Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and State Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine.
"Republicans believe in competition. We believe primaries are a good thing," said Mark Fahleson, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party. "They've pushed Hassebrook to the side. Democrats are afraid of competition."
Hassebrook stressed that he was promised nothing for withdrawing from the race.
He did leave open the door to a future return to politics.
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