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Don Walton

Democrats are out wooing a gubernatorial candidate to challenge Dave Heineman.

Not an easy chore.

But they are pointing to the counterintuitive experience of Democratic candidates in Nebraska as they attempt to make the sell.

The assumption is it would be better for a substantial Democratic candidate to wait until 2014 when the governorship is an open seat rather than try to unseat Heineman in 2010.

History argues otherwise, Democrats suggest.

All the Democrats who have been elected governor since Frank Morrison's election in 1960 unseated Republican incumbents.

Jim Exon ousted Nobby Tiemann in 1970.

Bob Kerrey bumped Charley Thone in 1982.

Ben Nelson defeated Kay Orr in 1990.

Why would that be?

You could argue it's because those Republican governors had a record the Democratic challengers could attack and contest.

And you might make the case that Republicans have a natural advantage in Nebraska if both party nominees start as non-incumbents with a relatively clean slate.

But every election has its own peculiar set of circumstances. Generalizations are shaky, at best.

So, does Heineman have a record that can be attacked?

Democrats think they can start with conditions and circumstances at the Beatrice State Developmental Center and build from that.

But first they've got to find a substantial candidate, and there's no word they've nailed one yet.

In the meantime, the 2010 focus remains on the 2nd District congressional contest building between Lee Terry and Tom White.

White's campaign was cheered by the Cook Political Report's recent shift of the 2nd District from a "likely Republican" win to a "lean Republican" contest.

Fulton out front

Front and center, Sen. Tony Fulton.

Last week, he showed up on Fox News with Sean Hannity to challenge "the reach of the federal government" in the context of the 10th Amendment.

Today, he'll be at the Capitol to help kick off a bus tour arguing against "government-run health care."

Fulton plans to introduce a legislative resolution next year to prompt a discussion about federal power and state sovereignty.

The 10th Amendment states that power not delegated to the federal government is reserved to the states and the people.

In introducing Fulton and fellow legislator Mark Christensen on his program, Hannity said the two Nebraska senators were "raising the possibility of secession" from the union.

Not accurate, Fulton says.

"I think the producers of that show probably were going for a sensational story," Fulton says. "That overstates our intention."

But is there political purpose here in raising his profile?

"I've heard I'm running for Congress," Fulton says.

"Or that I'm running for mayor or city council.

"I don't know.

"First, I need to determine whether to continue serving in public office. And that's a decision I will make with my family."

Johnson in the fray

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Paul Johnson has joined Mack Crounse Group as senior vice president.

Johnson has managed successful Democratic Senate campaigns in Republican Nebraska for Kerrey and Nelson, most recently guiding Nelson's re-election victory in 2006.

Jim Crounse, a native of Omaha who holds a political science degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is widely regarded as the leading direct mail consultant for Democratic candidates nationally.

Johnson's record as campaign strategist and message-crafter is remarkable.

As campaign manager or general consultant, he has helped win eight of nine Senate elections for Democratic candidates around the country, all but one in a red state.

Most recently, Johnson guided Jeff Merkley's 2008 campaign victory over incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith in Oregon.

If you sight him somewhere in Nebraska, we've got a race.

Watch private sector

Joe Jordan, Nebraska's premier TV political journalist, has left the media to man a new government watchdog Web site.

The goal of nebraskawatchdog. org will be to "investigate and inform the public about waste, fraud, abuse, ethical questions and safety concerns involving the use of taxpayer dollars" in Nebraska's state and local governments.

Nebraska Watchdog is funded in part by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and Pete Ricketts.

Nothing wrong with keeping an eye on government.

But it might be a good idea to also have a corporate watchdog Web site to keep an eye on the private sector, considering the abuses in the financial and housing sectors that triggered the deep economic recession.

Sure, taxpayer dollar misuse matters, but private sector abuse has cost us far more in shrinking 401k accounts and economic distress.

Finishing up

  • Ricketts has been named a member of the Republican National Committee's executive committee.
  • Afterthought: Walter Cronkite referred to Thone as the conscience of the House committee that investigated the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Thone led efforts to open the proceedings.
  • Rumble at Yankee Stadium this weekend.

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