State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha says he's inclined to pursue a "lifelong dream" by entering the 2014 Senate race, but he wants to approach that decision in a measured way.

"It would be the culmination of everything I've always wanted to do," the veteran state legislator said during a telephone interview this week.

"I don't want to stop serving," Ashford said. 

He will be term-limited out of the Legislature at the end of next year, having completed two consecutive four-year terms on top of a previous eight-year stint as a state senator.

Although Ashford is comfortable as a registered independent  in a nonpartisan Legislature, the only viable pathway to the Senate for him would appear to lead through the Democratic primary.  

Ashford would provide Democrats with a credentialed candidate, and seeking election as an independent would seem to be an unrealistic venture.

"I feel very comfortable as an independent," Ashford says. "And I think Nebraskans would be benefited by an independent senator. 

"I would tend to caucus with the Democrats, probably. My values on social issues are more akin to those of Democrats.   

"I like being an independent, but the question is: Can it be done?"

So far, Ashford has not changed his voter registration to Democrat. 

In the past, he has been registered at one time or another as a Democrat and a Republican. Ashford was a candidate for Omaha mayor this spring as a registered independent.

"I want to be measured in how I approach this," Ashford said. "I'm excited about it; I'm very excited about it. I'm thinking about it a lot and I'm leaning toward doing it."

Ashford said he was attracted to the challenge of "working on solutions to difficult problems" like immigration reform, which, he noted, may be resolved before Nebraska's next senator is sworn in.

The compromise, bipartisan bill that recently passed the Senate provides "an example of how to deal with issues," he said. 

"On a good day, the Senate is like the Nebraska Legislature," Ashford said.  "On a bad day, it's like the Senate."

One overriding challenge that faces the next senator, he said, is "how to make the health care reform law work for all Nebraskans, make it affordable and deal with costs."

And, Ashford said, he'd like to "try to make government work more efficiently," controlling costs, assuring fairness in taxation and recognizing that government "needs to be less regulatory in a good way."

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or  dwalton@journalstar.com.