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Chris Beutler

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. (ERIC GREGORY/LJS file)

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler on Thursday brushed aside reports putting him on a wish list of leading 2012 Democratic Senate prospects in the wake of Sen. Ben Nelson's decision not to seek re-election.

"I have not given much thought about running for the Senate, because I like living in Nebraska and would like to continue the success we experienced in Lincoln over the past few years," Beutler said in a written statement.

"At this point, I believe I can best serve people by continuing my term as Lincoln's mayor," he said.

Beutler was re-elected to a four-year term earlier this year.

In his statement, the mayor saluted Nelson as a leader who has "personified the values that are all too rare in the political arena: integrity, compassion, fierce determination and a devotion to doing the right thing, no matter what the political costs."

Beutler is one of four names on a Democratic dream team list that includes former Sen. Bob Kerrey, former Lt. Gov. Kim Robak and state Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha.

Kerrey, who was in the Senate from 1989 to 2001, has sent mixed signals, but he is understood to be considering whether to enter the race.

Meanwhile, Nelson campaign manager Paul Johnson said he'd be closing down the senator's campaign apparatus with about $2 million in unallocated funds that could be distributed in a variety of ways.

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Money could be returned to donors, transferred to the Nebraska Democratic Party or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, spent on political activities or given to a foundation or charity, Johnson said.

"No decision will be made regarding these monies for some time," he said in an email.

The Nelson campaign has about $3 million on hand, but $816,000 of it is designated for general election expenditures. That is money contributed by individuals or political action committees that already had given the maximum amount allowed for the primary election, and those funds must be returned to contributors.

Once pending expenses and obligations are paid, Johnson said, there should be about $2 million left.

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

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