Bartholomew “Bart” McLeay loves freedom, especially the nation's free enterprise system.
His belief that Congress has forgotten that “freedom works” is one reason the Omaha trial attorney and Republican jumped into Nebraska's U.S. Senate race on Monday.
The other is that he believes his years as a litigator could help end the gridlock in Washington, D.C.
“I have spent my whole professional life resolving disputes. I thrive in those circumstances,” said McLeay, 54, who announced his campaign near the Douglas County Courthouse, with about 30 family members and 60 supporters — many of them from his law firm — on hand for his press conference. “I am trained to reach people with different points of view. That happens every time I have stood before a jury or a judge with a different perspective.”
McLeay is a trial attorney for the prestigious firm of Kutak Rock. This is his first bid for statewide office, although not his first foray into politics.
During college, McLeay worked as an intern for the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Zorinsky. He said his work with Zorinsky inspired him to become a Democrat. He didn't become a Republican until about 2000 when he supported former President George W. Bush.
However, although he was a Democrat, McLeay indicated he didn't always vote Democratic, saying he did not support former President Bill Clinton.
McLeay is just the latest Republican to either jump into the race or to consider a run. Former Nebraska State Treasurer Shane Osborn announced last month, while others are considering a bid, including Ben Sasse, president of Midland University, and Pete Ricketts, an Omaha businessman who made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2006.
So far, there are no Democrats in the race. State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, who came in fourth in this year's Omaha mayoral race, is considering a run as an independent.
McLeay is a native Nebraskan who grew up in Omaha and attended Creighton Prep. He is the son of longtime Omaha doctor John McLeay, who graduated from Creighton University Medical School and practiced in the area for years as a general surgeon.
Bart McLeay has worked for Kutak Rock since 1984 and currently serves as the chairman of the law firm's litigation department, coordinating the work of 140 attorneys.
He has represented several businesses in his lengthy law career, including First National Bank of Omaha and MidAmerican Energy. He also was hired in the 1990s to represent the State of Nebraska in a Republican River lawsuit against Kansas and Colorado.
“I have fought and won in courthouses in Nebraska and elsewhere and I am now ready to take the fight to Washington,” said McLeay.