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Nebraska Republican Primary Endorsements

On Tuesday, Nebraska will hold their primaries to determine who will run for Governor, a Senate seat, and their three House seats. For Governor, Dave Heineman is term-limited. The chance to succeed him for the GOP is being battled out by six challengers which indicates how deep the Republican bench is in Nebraska. Five of the six are “decent” potential candidates. The smart money would have been establishment favorite Pete Ricketts who ran for the Senate in 2006. However, all that changed when state attorney general Jon bruning entered the race. Bruning ran in the Republican primary in 2012 to replace Democrat Ben Nelson in the Senate but lost that primary to eventual winner, Deb Fischer. Bruning received Tea Party support in that effort and will most likely in his bid for Governor. There are also some wild cards and dark horses in this race. Bryan Slone, an ex-congressional aid and attorney, had a strong fundraising quarter at the end of 2013. This is a particularly strong field that should keep the governor’s office in deeply red Nebraska in the hands of the Republican Party. The eventual winner will face Chuck Hassebrook, a former University of Nebraska regent and considered the best Democratic choice in the Cornhusker State.

With all that being said and all things considered, this writer would have supported the candidacy of Bryan Slone before the entry of Jon Bruning into the race. Thus, I fully endorse the candidacy of Jon Bruning to represent the GOP in the general election for the governor’s office in Nebraska.

Current Republican incumbent Senator Mike Johanns, described as a soft-spoken former governor and secretary of agriculture under Bush, somewhat surprised the political world when he announced his retirement this year. In truth, Johanns had angered some conservative Republicans over his criticism of certain groups trying to influence elections in Nebraska. Additionally, he was a member of the gang of Eight that failed to reach an agreement on deficit reduction. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the most conservative, red states in the country. Unless there is some kind of self-implosion, there is little worry of losing this seat. The bottom line is that the Democrats will have precious little to offer in the way of a challenge.

This basically comes down to two candidates- former state treasurer Shane Osborn and Midland University president Ben Sasse, although banker Sid Dinsdale’s fundraining has been impressive to date. In my opinion, the GOP has two winning messages in this year’s midterm elections- opposition to Obamacare and educational reform based on parental choice. It is rare when one can find a willing candidate who has experience in both health care and education. That person is Ben Sasse. He served in the Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services and as president of Midland University. As a president in higher education, he was one of the youngest in the country and presided over a surge in enrollment. Although accrediting boards have placed the university on notice over certain concerns, Sasse himself seems to have weathered this mini-storm rather unscathed.

For his part, Osborn has been questioning Sasse’s conservative credentials, especially as concerns Obamacare. Most of this criticism stems from articles and interviews Sasse gave around the time of Obamacare’s passage. Having read these articles, Osborn is engaging in behaviors and tactics more akin to the Democratic Party- taking quotes out of context and then using them to redefine his opponent. If anyone reads these articles, it is clear that Sasse was ruminating on the political landscape at the time. For example, he somewhat criticized the tactic of repeated votes on repealing Obamacare since it will never occur with the current political alignment. This is a political fact. And Sasse must be doing something right to get under the skin of Mitch McConnell whom Sasse has criticized as somewhat lacking in true leadership (Sasse speaks the truth).

Given the resume and accomplishments of Sasse, his surge in fundraising ability, his growing profile and the fact that he will be around for a while given his young age (42) plus his experience in both education and health care- two areas where the GOP has an advantage- and because Osborn is apparently aligning himself too closely with the national Republican establishment, this writer firmly endorses Ben Sasse. In fact, if the voters should opt for another candidate, they would be doing themselves and the country a great disservice and may force me to reconsider my membership in the Republican Party.

All three Nebraska Republican House incumbents will face primary challenges. In the relatively safe, Lincoln-based 1st District, Jeff Fortenberry- an almost moderate legislator- faces no serious competition and one can find no reason to not endorse Jeff Fortenberry.

If the Democrats ever wish to have any national importance in Nebraska, it would be in the 2nd, an Omaha-based District. This is the least Republican of all three Nebraska congressional districts. It is currently represented by Lee Terry. Depending on the source, Terry is either a hard-core conservative or a liberal. Terry’s opponent- businessman Dan Frei- would go further and call Terry a liberal and out of touch with his Nebraska constituents. Terry, despite outspending his Democratic opponent 4-1 in 2014 just barely eeked out a 51-49% victory.

This can be taken one of two ways- either it may be time for a change in the 2nd District for the Republicans, or the district is too vulnerable at this time to go with a new face. In all probability, Terry would probably prevail in a general election as the electorate in this district is conservative, just perhaps not ready for Frei’s brand of conservatism. Therefore, this writer supports the candidacy of Lee Terry.

Finally, in the Third District, Adrian Smith is the current Republican incumbent. This district is the largest (area-wise) and the most Republican of the three. Even still, most websites describe Smith as a moderate Republican. The Cook Political Report puts their PVI at +23 Republican, although I have it much higher at +32.5. His primary opponent will be retired Army officer Tom Brewer. I like the fact that on his website he lists education and Obamacare at the top of his agenda. I dislike the fact that he lists alternative energy- particularly wind energy- among his priorities. However, given the demographics and landscape of the 3rd District, his interest here is understandable. Brewer has been critical of Smith’s fundraising efforts, especially those related to PACs and special interests.

In a sense, given the political dynamics of this district, there would be little downside to going with Brewer, but besides his exemplary military career, there is precious little else. Considering that whoever wins will likely be facing Mark Sullivan- whose platform sounds vague, but suspiciously in line with the Obama agenda and not in line with the people of the 3rd District- in the general election, I am going on a limb and endorsing Tom Brewer as I believe he will be a better fit for the district and some new blood in the House.

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