As soon as Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson announced that he would retire rather than run for a third term, Republicans began to look ahead to 2012 with the real possibility that the GOP could gain control of the Senate.. Currently, Democrats hold a 53-47 edge that includes Independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders.
Nelson’s retirement brings the number of Senate retirees to nine. Six Democrats, Two Republicans and One Independent will not seek re-election in 2012.
Below are all Senate Retirements to Date.
- Arizona – Republican - John Kyl – 3 terms
- Connecticut – Independent – Joe Lieberman – 4 terms
- Hawaii – Democrat – Daniel Alkala – 4 terms
- Nebraska – Democrat – Ben Nelson – 2 terms
- New Mexico – Democrat – Jeff Bingaman – 5 terms
- North Dakota – Democrat Kent Conrad – 5 terms
- Texas – Republican – Kay Bailey Hutchison – 3 terms
- Virginia – Democrat – Jim Webb – 1 term
- Wisconsin – Democrat – Herb Kohl – 3 terms
These retirements will present the 2013 with a shortage of experience. In total, these retirees have served 30 terms in the Senate. The Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority but that majority includes Independents Lieberman and Sanders who caucus with Democrats. One cannot help but wonder if the high number of retirements is based on the highly volatile atmosphere in Washington.
The dismal approval rating of Congress detracts from the good work performed by serious, long-term Senators. The high number of retirements is a reflection on the sorry state of Washington.
Nelson’s retirement is likely to cost the Democrats a much-needed seat as a list of challengers assembles for a run against an unamed Democrat. Nebraska’s popular Republican Governor, Dave Heineman, has been approached by Senate Minority Leade Mitch McConnell to run for office. Heineman informed the Omaha World-Herald that he was not considering a run for the vacant seat. Nelson’s retirement caught Nebraska’s Democrats by surprise. Former Senator and Democrat Bob Kerrey has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Nelson, but Kerrey was cool to overtures.
As it stands now, three Republicans will square off in a primary battle. Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and state senator Deb Fischer will vie for the Republican nomination. If Kerrey stays out of the race, Democrats Kim Robak, a former Lieutenant Governor and state senator Steve Lathrop will run for the nomination. Republicans were geared up to battle with Nelson and promised a formidable campaign. In Nebraska, President Obama is not viewed favorably and all Democrats willface uphill battles.
Nelson was an independent thinker and voter. He is also the only elected Democrat holding a Congressional seat. Senator Nelson voted for the needs of his constituents. Thos eneeds were not always Democratic initiatives. Upon hearing of Nelson’s retirment, President Obama described Nelson’s bipartisan approach as “a trait far too often overlooked in today’s politics.”
Nelosn was involved in three controversial acts. The first took place in 2005 when the Senate was controlled by the Republicans. Nelson joined the “Gang of 14″ Senators who agreed not to oppose GW Bush’s nominations for justices unless there were extraordinary circumstances. This group allowed Bush to fill positions on the federal bench.
Nelson most controversial vote came during the Obama health insurance debate. Initially, Nelson would only agree to the legislation if Nebraska would be exempot from paying for the expanded Medicare coverage. Republicans dubbed this concession, which Nelson later rescinded, the “Cornhusker Kickback.” This incident was sure to be recalled during another run by Nelson.
Senator Nelson’s third controvesial position surfaced in Agust of 2011. The Senator voted against the debt ceiling increase. He explained his vote saying, “it sets up a maze on convuluted procedures that willonly continue the chaos and political games Nebraskans are tired of seeing.”
In the 2012 elections, Democrats are defending 23 seats. Republicans are defending 10 seats. It is early to tell how some important races will conclude. Senator Patty Murray of Washington is the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaogn Committee. In response to Nelson’s announcement, Murray said, “We remain confident that we will hold the majority next year because incumbents have built strong organizations in their states.”
That may be true, but Republicans want the Senate and the Presidency to add to their majority in the House. They are armed and dangerous. Tea Party activists are already taking their grass roots campaign to the people. Polls suggest that political ideology will play a big part in the 2012 elections. It is expected that more Americans than ever before will vote straight down party lines. The Democrats’ ability to hold the Senate may well rest with President Obama. If the President can somehow work around Congress and get his jobs bill approved, all Democrats may get a boost.
One cannot help but recall Senator Mitch McConnell’s pledge that his most important goals was to make President Obama a one-term President. If the Republicans had used the same energy as has been expended working against Obama to concentrate on the People’s needs, the recovery from the Republican-caused recession would be on more stable ground.
Two important seats that Democrats could gain belong to Scott Brown of Massachussetts and the seat held by Dean Heller in Nevada. Heller was appointed to fill the seat held by John Ensign, who retired following an ethics inquiry. House Democrat Shelley Berkley is popular in her home state and has an excellent chance to outduel Heller.
In Massachussetts, Elizabeth Warren has masterfully gained support for her run at Brown. Warren is an Obama favorite and is in a state that will strongly support the President. Warren is a credible candidate with outstanding experience in the bureacracy of Washington. In rceent polls, Warren has edged past Brown who will take to the offense in January.
Republicans need to gain just four seats to have the majority in the Senate. In order to hold the majority and have a workable balance of power, a Democratic Senate is the nation’s best bet. If We The People lose the Senate, we will only have ourselves to blame. We Democrats need your votes and your hard work. If We The People do not fight for ourselves, we leave ourselves subject to the whims of the Republicans.
If they have their way, Republicans will send We The People to engage Iran. We The People will earn less. The entitlements will diminish as the budget for defense continues to escalate. The quality of education will suffer. The environment will be at risk. And, the country will once again be at the mercy of too big too fail institutions.
If that is what you want, you are We The Few, not We The People. Let’s do our very best to get the President another term, increase our majority in the Senate and take back the House. How pleasant it would be to restore sanity to government. Every Tea Party candidate and every signee of the Norquist Pledge must be run out of town. That is the only course of action to make the insanity cease and desist.