A grassroots effort turned Keystone XL into a major issue in Nebraska.
Can it help Democrats score victories at the polls in 2018?
That is the focus of a special five-part series Nebraska Radio Network has produced in collaboration with HuffPost.
Bold Nebraska founder Jane Kleeb chairs the Nebraska Democratic Party and says she has learned a lot in the battle against the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
“One is never judge somebody on where they live or what they look like, right?” Kleeb tells Nebraska Radio Network and HuffPost in an interview at the Nebraska Democratic Party Headquarters in Lincoln.
Kleeb says that if you walk into a room of pipeline fighters, you might assume they are Republicans, but Kleeb says ranchers are some of the best environmentalist she knows.
Kleeb believes the pipeline fight can invigorate Democrats in 2018.
“People are beginning to see that their grassroots power has an impact and can actually change people’s perceptions and change laws,” according to Kleeb.
Kleeb provides the political, even moral, push against Keystone XL.
Attorney Dave Domina supplies the legal punch.
Domina represents landowners opposed to Keystone. He believes TransCanada was exposed in the recent hearings before the Nebraska Public Service Commission with the hearings raising awareness among Nebraskans about why the landowners oppose Keystone XL.
Domina unsuccessfully ran for United States Senate; the Democrat who lost in a lopsided race to Republican Ben Sasse, a race in which he quips he walked more than ran for office.
Yet, Domina does see Keystone XL as an issue which could open the door for Democrats next year.
“I think it’s more likely that it would be viewed as a more vibrant political issue today than it was in any of the past elections,” Domina tells us in an interview at his Omaha law offices.
The Keystone XL fight has shifted strategy over the years. First pitched as an environmental issue, it has developed into a property rights issue with opponents focusing less on the environment and more on the potential use of eminent domain. TransCanada would almost certainly have to use eminent domain to complete the pipeline route through Nebraska.
Though Nebraska Republican national committeeman J. L. Spray doesn’t see Keystone playing a role in 2018, he does say it has had an impact.
“I think the interesting thing is how it parses the different demographics of the two parties,” Spray says during an interview with Nebraska Radio Network and HuffPost in his downtown Lincoln office.
Spray says traditional Republicans uphold property rights. Union members, traditional Democrats, support Keystone’s construction.
“It causes both I think to kind of rethink, well now what’s this whole party political dynamic about,” according to Spray.
Tomorrow, a rally in Omaha discloses a split among Democrats.
Eliot Nelson of HuffPost contributed to this article.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:25]