Kerrey Passes on Nebraska Senate Race

ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: Former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey announced Wednesday that he will not leave his job as president of The New School in New York City to run for the Nebraska Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.

"I have decided I will not leave The New School to become a candidate for the United States Senate in Nebraska," said Kerrey.  "The reason is simple enough:  For my family and me now is not the time for me to re-enter politics as a candidate."

Kerrey had been seriously flirting with a return to the Senate -- a point which he noted in his statement.

"I nearly said yes to leaving," said Kerrey. "Again the reason is simple enough:  I am deeply troubled about the direction of our country.  And the idea of returning home to Nebraska to lead a political campaign based on a promise to do my part to change the direction was very appealing."

Kerrey, who has maintained a hawkish stance on the Iraq war, had been actively recruited by national Democrats who were drawn to him because of his name I.D. in the state, which he earned as a former governor, Senator and Congressional Medal of Honor winner, and fundraising capacity, which he developed as a 1992 presidential candidate and former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 1996 cycle.

With Kerrey out of the race, the top Democratic contenders in Nebraska are expected to be rancher Scott Kleeb, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2006, and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey. On the Republican side, the top contenders are former Gov. Mike Johanns, who resigned last month as Secretary of Agriculture, Attorney General Jon Bruning, and businessman Pat Flynn.

Although Kerrey's decision to pass on the Nebraska Senate race is a setback for national Democrats, they still face a positive picture overall: in 2008, the G.O.P. must defend 22 seats currently held by Republicans while the Democratic Party only has to defend 12 seats currently held by Democrats.

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