Hagel bucks party lines, receives criticism

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November 1st, 2012

Omaha, NE – Word spread Wednesday that former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel would cross party lines and endorse Senate candidate Bob Kerrey on Thursday. But before it was official, Kerrey’s challenger State Senator Deb Fischer held a press conference of her own down-playing its significance.

After plans leaked of the endorsement, Fischer wasted no time criticizing it. Fischer, along with fellow Republicans Senator Mike Johanns and Governor Dave Heineman did not mince words in a press conference Wednesday. Senator Mike Johanns questioned Hagel’s motivation. “He is close to Joe Biden and Barack Obama,” Johanns said. “Even to the extent where they have rewarded his loyalty with positions in the administration.”

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, bucked party lines and endorsed Democrat Bob Kerrey for U.S. Senate. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

“Chuck has been very clear about the fact that he’d love to be in the Obama administration,” Johanns continued. “I think Chuck would love to think he’s on the list to be Secretary of something.”

But at the official announcement of the endorsement later in the day, former Senator Chuck Hagel responded. “Well, that’s an interesting observation,” Hagel said, “because I think if I’d be doing that, I’d be out in Virginia or Ohio campaigning for the President, not Bob Kerrey, to start with. So that doesn’t make much sense.”

Hagel added he’s turned down offers to work for the President in the past, though he wouldn’t mention which positions. Hagel has served on advisory committees for the President.

Bob Kerrey said he’ll remember the endorsement of Hagel, much longer than the men now criticizing him. “I do not know if Sen. Hagel’s endorsement of me will have as positive of an impact as it had on Mike Johanns and Dave Heineman when they were running for office,” said Kerrey.

“But if it does, I promise you I’ll remember it longer,” he added.

Hagel touted Kerrey’s bipartisanship and added his position on tax and entitlement reforms earned his endorsement. “Bob Kerrey knows that you get things done based on your word and your work,” Hagel said, “Not partisan ideology, not playing to the lowest basic common denominator of your political party.”

“That partisan ideology, unfortunately, has now commandeered our government.”

But at Fischer’s press conference, Governor Dave Heineman touted Fischer’s endorsements from Nebraska politicians. He criticized Kerrey’s out-of-state endorsements as having little impact on the election. Hagel currently lives in Washington D.C.

Jovially, Gov. Heineman quipped, “He’s got Alan Simpson of Wyoming’s vote, he can’t vote in Nebraska. Rudman of New Hampshire, he can’t vote here. Harry Reid of Nevada, he’s going to try, but it won’t work. And Chuck Hagel hasn’t been registered to vote in Nebraska in for the last couple of years.”

“So here it is, we’ve got five votes for Fischer. Kerrey’s got zero,” Heineman said.

Hagel was asked why he endorsed Kerrey five days before the election and he said he didn’t have an answer, other than he thought it was the right thing to do, and hoped it would have a positive impact on his campaign.

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