Chuck Hassebrook will enter Senate race

2012-02-10T16:30:00Z 2012-02-23T09:30:24Z Chuck Hassebrook will enter Senate raceBy DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
February 10, 2012 4:30 pm  • 

University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook will announce his candidacy for the Senate on Tuesday from his hometown of Lyons.

Hassebrook has decided to seek the Democratic nomination for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who said in December he will not be a candidate for a third term.

State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, the lone remaining major Democratic prospect other than Hassebrook, may be ready to reveal his plans Monday. 

Lathrop is widely considered to be unlikely to enter the Senate race, but he has not telegraphed his intentions.

Hassebrook's decision follows on the heels of former Sen. Bob Kerrey's declaration this week that he will not be a Democratic Senate candidate. His Tuesday announcement will precede the filing deadline by a single day.

Incumbent officeholders like Hassebrook must complete their filing by Wednesday, whereas other candidates face a March 1 deadline. Hassebrook will withdraw as a candidate for re-election to a fourth term on the Board of Regents when he enters the Senate contest.

If Lathrop decides not to run, Hassebrook is the final remaining name on the Democratic wish list that emerged when Nelson decided not to seek re-election to the Senate seat he has occupied since 2001. Former Lt. Gov. Kim Robak scratched her name from the Democratic roster earlier this week.

Hassebrook, 56, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, has been a university regent since 1995. The center is nationally recognized as a research, advocacy and development organization that supports small communities, small businesses and family farming and ranching.

In what may be a preview of Republican attacks on the man who could be on track to be the Democratic Senate nominee, GOP State Chairman Mark Fahleson described Hassebrook on Friday as "a radical environmentalist."

Last May, prior to a rural economic forum in Peosta, Iowa, Hassebrook made a pitch to President Barack Obama about the importance of strengthening family farms.

"I seized the opportunity to speak to the president about the importance of capping the big federal farm payments that subsidize mega-farms (and) drive small and mid-size farms out of business," Hassebrook wrote in a blog summary of their meeting.

"I said capping those payments would strengthen family farms and create budget savings -- which could be used to protect investments in the future of rural America through small business development, beginning farmer programs, rural community development and conservation."

Hassebrook plans to announce his plans at his house in Lyons, a northeast Nebraska community of about 850 residents in Burt County halfway between Fremont and Sioux City.

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

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