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Updated: Lathrop Passes on Senate Run, Seriously Considering Governor’s Race

By   /   February 13, 2012  /   No Comments

Sen. Steve Lathrop said today he very seriously considered running for the U.S. Senate, but ultimately decided he would be more effective continuing in the Nebraska Legislature and possibly running for governor in 2014.

He said running for Ben Nelson’s seat was “a significant opportunity for any Democrat.”

“The concern was always what’s the better fit?” he said in an interview today. “I really like working on the things that we work on here in the state capitol.”

That leaves University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook as the sole Democrat in the race as of now, while there are five Republican candidates.

Lathrop said he likes working in the nonpartisan environment of the Unicameral, which stands in stark contrast to the hyper-partisan Congress. When faced with an issue, the Legislature has been able to find solutions, he said, unlike more partisan bodies.

Lathrop was elected to the Legislature in 2006, re-elected in 2010 and will be term-limited out at the end of his current term. Rather than changing his focus to raising millions of dollars and campaigning, he wants to continue to be involved in reforming the state’s child welfare system and making sure the state provides adequate resources to educate children. He supports an overhaul of the system of care for abused and neglected children and the return of case management to the state, he said.

“I think the administration got into this without thinking it all the way through,” he said of Gov. Dave Heineman’s troubled and costly privatization of child welfare services. “It would appear that we probably came up short in every way that was predictable.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy – whom Lathrop calls “a friend of mine” — has already said he intends to run for governor, too, but Lathrop said he thinks he’d be better suited for the job, although he declined to launch into full campaign mode when the election is still nearly three years away.

Lathrop is chairman of the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative Committee, which has been heavily involved in trying to improve the state’s quality of care for people with developmental disabilities, particularily at the state home in Beatrice. In that role, he has sometimes been a thorn in the side of the governor, but the Legislature’s Executive Board recently voted to allow Lathrop to continue the committee’s work for another year. The reauthorization bill now goes to the full Legislature for consideration.

Reported by Deena Winter, deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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Deena Winter has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing stories for the Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press, Denver Post and Lincoln Journal Star before joining Watchdog.

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