Former Nebraska United States Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, has endorsed Democrat Bob Kerrey in the race for United States Senate.
“I think most of you know that I’m a former Nebraska Republican United States Senator,” Hagel stated during a news conference to make his announcement held in the Capitol Rotunda. “And I’m here today to endorse Bob Kerrey for United States Senate.”
Public opinion polls indicate that Kerrey has closed the gap considerably with Republican Deb Fischer in their campaign to replace Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat who is retiring from public service. Nelson’s seat is vital to Republican efforts to win control of the United States Senate.
During a news conference earlier in the day, Sen. Mike Johanns, a Republican who succeeded Hagel in the U-S Senate, suggested Hagel made the endorsement in hopes of landing in President Obama’s cabinet if the president is re-elected. [Click here for earlier story]
Hagel called the suggestion ridiculous.
“Well, I’m not sure Sen. Johanns can answer for me, although I did help him a few times get to where he is,” Hagel said to laughter from supporters gathered for the news conference.
Hagel rejected the Johanns’ comments as excessively partisan.
“Comments like what Mr. Johanns said is what is wrong with our party system today,” according to Hagel. “Who is Mike Johanns to judge me on I’m not a Republican? I’m just as much a Republican as he is. On whose standard is he judging me? That’s the problem with the Republican Party today.”
Hagel serves as the chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. Though Hagel accepted the president’s invitation to preside over that board, he claimed to have turned down offers to serve in a senior position in the administration.
Kerrey, who served with Hagel for four years in the U.S. Senate, said it’s important to point out that Hagel has crossed party lines and crossed friends to endorse him.
“This is an example of what we have to do, what we all have to do, if we’re going to resolve conflicts and solve problems, be willing to do what we think is right and take criticism from friends,” Kerrey stated.
Kerrey said he’s not sure how the endorsement will affect the race, but he says he believes the race has tightened considerably, giving him a real chance to win Tuesday.
AUDIO: Democrat Bob Kerrey holds a news conference with Chuck Hagel in the Capitol Rotunda. [12 min.]