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Bob Kerrey

Bob Kerrey talks on the phone after deciding to enter the 2012 Senate race on Feb. 29, 2012. (JACOB HANNAH/Lincoln Journal Star file photo)

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the Republican Party's case to remove Bob Kerrey's name from the May 15 primary election ballot.

The court ruled it has no authority to consider the GOP's appeal of a Lancaster County District Court order that rejected the party's effort to overturn a ruling by Secretary of State John Gale placing Kerrey's name on the ballot as a Democratic Senate candidate.

"In election cases, this court has no authority to grant relief where the Legislature has established by statute strict deadlines which must be met in order to guarantee that the state's election process is safeguarded against uncertainty and disruption," the court stated.

The Republican Party has argued that Kerrey did not establish legal residency or qualify as a registered voter in Nebraska prior to his filing as a candidate a day before the March 1 deadline.

Gale expressed misgivings about whether Kerrey had established legal residency in Nebraska at the time of his filing, but ruled the U.S. Constitution protected his status as a U.S. Senate candidate.

The Supreme Court decision appeared to bring the legal squabble to an end and set in motion a big-money, high-stakes battle that will attract national attention and conceivably could determine control of the Senate.

Kerrey is seeking the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson at the end of the year. 

Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and state Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine are among the candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

In the wake of the high court's decision, Republican State Chairman Mark Fahleson said the GOP has made its case in the court of public opinion.

"Bob Kerrey resorted to New York-style political tricks, filing at the 11th hour and preventing Nebraska election officials and courts from having sufficient time under Nebraska law to determine whether he's a legitimate candidate," Fahleson said.

"Simply put, we have a New Yorker running for the Senate in Nebraska because of a technicality."

Gale found that Kerrey "failed to establish that he was a Nebraska resident at the time he filed" for the Senate, Fahleson said.

Paul Johnson, Kerrey's campaign manager, said Republican leaders "will now have to move on from denial and anger and accept the fact that they have to compete on the field.

"The time and taxpayer dollars they spent on these frivolous actions show how much they wanted to avoid that competition," Johnson said.

"Republican leaders sought an activist court decision of the worst kind -- one that would have denied the right of voters to choose an elected official."

Johnson pointed to last week's ruling by District Court Judge Steven Burns stating there was "no evidence to suggest that Mr. Kerrey knowingly and willfully violated any laws of the state of Nebraska" in establishing a residency in Omaha and registering as a Douglas County voter.

The deadline date to begin preparing primary election ballots occurred last week.

Kerrey, a former one-term governor and two-term U.S. senator, moved to New York City in 2001 to accept the presidency of New School University, where he worked for 10 years  He now has re-established residency in Omaha, where he previously lived, while he and his family continue to maintain a home in New York. 

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at


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