Some perspective, please, in regard to the Tea Party influence in Ben Sasse’s victory in the Nebraska Republican Senatorial primary election this week.
Sasse’s win over his nearest rival—Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale—was some 5,200 votes. But his total of 16,123 (with still ballots still to be counted) was some 2,189 votes less than combined total cast for Republican candidates other than Sasse.
The Tea Party influence in Nebraska was not all that strong, when you consider that the size of the turnout and the substantial votes for non-Tea Party candidates, although $3 million coming into the state for campaign advertising—many of it on the political low-road—did obviously have a pro-Sasse impact.
Only A Third Of Eligible GOP Voters Turned Out
Keep in mind also that the primary turnout attracted only 33.26% of Nebraska Republicans registered to vote and, of course, no indication of support from political independents and Democrats, who, after all, United States Senator Ben Sasse would be representing in Washington.
A hopeful sign that Sasse realizes there are a great many Nebraskans out there who reject Tea Party extremism was these sentiments expressed by Sasse at a Tuesday night campaign celebration party.
“We have to start saying the things we are for, not just the things we are against.”
Democrat Domina Not A Realistic Alternative
Then there is the issue of facing Democratic nominee David Domina in the November balloting. Perhaps I should say the “non-issue” in view of Domina’s recent statement of his political philosophy.
In a position paper outlining that philosophy, Domina recently suggested that the Nebraska Republican and Democratic Parties pursue common goals, forming a coalition that would, among other things, work to eliminate American corporations.
I doubt that very many Nebraskans would join Domina’s proposed non-political party coalition.
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Ricketts Offered Reasonable Alternatives
To Bruning’s Hard-Line Approach
Turning to the other most significant Republican primary contest:
What started out as a neck-and-neck competition between Attorney General Jon Bruning and Omahan Pete Ricketts for the Republican gubernatorial nomination turned into a victory—narrow, but nonetheless a victory—for Omahan Pete Ricketts.
The Tuesday results showed that, as I see it, Bruning made a major campaign mistake—his “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” punishment for all law-violators sentenced to imprisonment—and still edged out Ricketts, who embraced the more compassionate and, as I see it, more effective way of addressing the crowded-prison problem. This approach would provide an alternative program for non-violent offenders who would be supervised but counseled in ways designed to restore them to society as law-abiding citizens.
One of the most effective ads of the Bruning/Ricketts campaign was a longer-than-usual television presentation of his case by Ricketts. The ad was well-reasoned, included no criticism of his opponent, and ended with this upbeat language:
“I believe with all my heart that our best days are still ahead.”
Quite a contrast to the anti-Ricketts ad pictured below:
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Election Law Reform Is Badly Needed
The Republican primary showed there is good reason for the next session of the Nebraska Legislature to do what it can, within constitutional perimeters, to discourage outside attack-ad financing for Nebraska campaigns or at least discourage such contributions from being made virtually anonymously—very big contributions in the case of the Sasse campaign.
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Outsiders Like Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin
Have No Proper Place In Neb. Campaign
In the GOP gubernatorial primary, Attorney General Jon Bruning lost, as I see it, because of the low-road route which his campaign took. The Ricketts campaign managed to escape what should have been intensive media scrutiny of his acceptance of help from outside political figures like Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
(Quite a lofty goal for a political figure who was elected to the Senate only last year.) Cruz apparently hopes to get considerable political mileage out of his open support for the Tea Party candidate to be the first “Cuba-American or Latino” (his description) to be nominated for president.
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Democrat Hassebrook Should Not Be Discounted
As I have pointed out earlier, the Republican gubernatorial nominee will face a credible Democratic opponent, Chuck Hassebrook, former member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and founder of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska—a potentially formidable opponent if the Bruning/Ricketts primary in-fighting left serious wounds and Hassebrook can convince voters that he can offer a gubernatorial agenda which recognizes the moderate conservatism of so many Nebraskans.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Nebraska has had a Democratic governor while being represented by Republicans in the United States Senate.
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Aspen A Surprising (To Me) Threat
To Unseat State Senator Burke Harr
To my surprise, the smiling blonde candidate, Gwenn Aspen, was leading State Senator Burke Harr—by a very narrow margin, but leading him—in the 8th Legislative District where Marian and I reside.
That margin, as I dictate these words, was 90 votes, 2,091 for Aspen, 2,001 for Harr.
Aspen’s campaign included a barrage of postcards including a card mailed last week that featured an endorsement by Sheriff Tim Dunning.
I thought Senator Harr had responded very effectively with a card that included endorsements by former police chief Alex Hayes and Douglas County attorney, Don Kleine.
Hayes said that Harr is working with fellow legislators “to improve our good time law.”
Kleine is quoted as saying that Senator Harr “has been an effective leader in passing legislation that protects Nebraska families from violent crimes.”
In one mailing, Harr offered biographical details: A graduate of Notre Dame University Law School and at one time a prosecuting attorney, married to a public high school principal.
Aspen offered no such detailed qualifications, but has said she is a “caring” person.
Heineman Endorsement Not Recently Cited
Early in the campaign, she included an endorsement by Governor Dave Heineman, who obviously disapproved of some action taken by Senator Harr in the Legislature.
Both Harr and Aspen will face off again in the campaign ending in the November elections.
Stay tuned. The contest has turned out to be one of the more interesting legislative races.
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