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A Bernie Sanders Supporter Is Trying To Turn Nebraska Purple

State party chair Jane Kleeb thinks Democrats need to pay more attention to rural voters.

Political offices are typically sparse workspaces, their decor limited to the occasional campaign poster, a stray framed photograph of a dignitary’s visit and whatever bumper stickers staffers have slapped on their laptops. As with so much in politics, such spartan conditions are as much about penny-pinching as they are about demonstrating said penny-pitching.

“Do you see how little we care about ourselves?” whispers the power strip haphazardly plopped on a folding table ringed by interns on Acer laptops. “We are much too busy updating our email lists and coordinating with Valerie from the carpenters local about Tuesday night’s potluck meet-and-greet.”

The Nebraska Democratic Party’s headquarters convey a different message. The downtown Lincoln office is flair’d-out like some kind of political TGI Fridays, its walls festooned with an ennobling collection of campaign posters, portraits of notable bygone Democrats and other political ephemera.

Freshening up the office was one of party chair Jane Kleeb’s first acts after her election in June 2016. The old office did not exactly inspire confidence: “A whole bunch of duct tape, beer cans and dog hair, that’s what we walked into.” More distressingly, the party had very little voter data and not much money in the bank.

Trying to lead the Nebraska Democrats to electoral success might sound as full of professional potential as running business development at Sears or chairing the Log Cabin Republicans, but Kleeb, 44, sees far more potential in her downtrodden state party.

The first thing you have to do, Kleeb said, “is you just have to show up.”

Visibility is a theme Kleeb keeps coming back to ― whether its a booth at the state fair, a pamphlet-wielding volunteer at a livestock auction house, or on the ballot. It represents an improvement over the status quo for the state’s Democrats, who have been defined by low morale after years of neglect from the national party.

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