Bob Kerrey is disputing language used by the Republican Secretary of State in Nebraska about the legality of Kerrey’s underdog campaign for his old Senate seat — and that’s after his candidacy was approved in some rather backhanded terms.
On Friday, Republican Secretary of State John Gale released a ruling that Kerrey is legally eligible to run for Senate under the U.S. Constitution, in response to a Republican-mounted challenge against his residency.
But at the same time, Gale’s ruling pointedly criticized the legitimacy of Kerrey’s actual residency.
In late February, shortly before launching his campaign for the Senate seat he held for two terms until his retirement in 2000, Kerrey registered to vote in the state once again, at the home of his sister in Omaha. Kerrey had lived for the past 11 years in New York City, as head of the New School from 2001-2010.
The next day, he then filed another registration at his different address — which would be the one on his candidate filing — with Kerrey leasing a guest house belonging to area real estate businessman and long-time friend Jay Noddle.
Gale’s letter (click here for the full document) reviews the laws at hand, and makes various points critical of Kerrey — and doesn’t even close the door on the idea that Kerrey might have falsely filed his voter registration, as Republicans accused him of.
An example of the language from Gale, to which Kerrey is objecting:
However, whether or not this registration on February 29th or the voter registration of February 28 constitutes “election falsification” as alleged in the objection filed by the Nebraska Republican Party is not within jurisdiction of the Secretary of State to investigate and determine. Complaints of criminal misconduct are matters for law enforcement offices and county attorneys. Neither the Secretary of State nor the Douglas County Election Commissioner has criminal investigative staff, nor has the power to initiate criminal charges. Therefore, my determination cannot be based on whether Mr. Kerrey has or has not committed “election falsification.”
And later, in the section that actually lays out the legality of Kerrey’s candidacy:
Nebraska courts have summarized the requirements to determine domicile at a residence be: presence at the location, an intent to remain, and an intent to abandon any previous domicile. Mr. Kerrey failed to meet these requirements. Therefore, the objection filed by the Republican Party has merit.
However, my analysis cannot stop there. Nebraska Statue Section 32-502 states that “candidates for the United States Senate shall meet the qualifications found in article 1, section 3, of the Constitution of the United States.”
Article 1, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, provides that “No person shall be a senator…who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of the State for which shall be chosen.”
In response, Kerrey’s campaign released a letter Monday, harshly responding to Gale. Key quote:
Dear Mr. Gale,
Your decision that my name will appear on the primary and general election ballot as a candidate for United States Senate is appreciated. Given the clarity of the U.S. Constitution and Nebraska statute, your decision could not have been otherwise. Your decision did not come as a surprise to me.
I was also not surprised when the Nebraska Republican Party filed their unsworn protest with you objecting to my presence on the ballot. It is clearly in their political interests to do so as it may be in their political interests to waste taxpayer’s money through further, baseless pursuit of this matter.
That is why I was not surprised that you rejected the unsworn protest by the Nebraska Republican Party, objecting to my presence on the ballot. What I find surprising - given your reputation as a fair and reasonable man - is the language of your opinion. It is as if you wrote the statement for the expressed purpose of giving Karl Rove some language to use in one of his commercials against me.
A request by TPM for comment from Gale’s office was not immediately returned.