Unicam 2016

Carl Curtis button 01Good Frioday afternoon peeps!

Let’s call this a Carl Curtis Friday, where we invoke the name of one of Nebraska’s favorite Reagan Republicans (before there WERE Reagan Republicans!).

Give us your takes on all things Conservative — and otherwise — as the debate has been engaged in the Legislature.

Especially if the Repeal the Death Penalty forces DON’T get past a filibuster, consider the 2016 Legislative race on like Donkey Kong.

The national forces will be in whole hog.
By a back-of-the-napkin count, we see 22 races. (Feel free to correct me here if I’ve missed somewhere.)
11 open seats — with 10 of those being sitting Pro-REPEAL votes.
Then there are 11 or 12 (probable) re-elect races — with 9 of those being PRO-Repeal, 5 of those Democrat seats.

Point being, assuming a turn on the Death Penalty is in sight, it could be a BIG issue that would draw national money and attention to the little one house legislature (where a little cash can go a long way).

Oh, and don’t forget the Big Dog in the McMansion who has been known to know a few people who can drop some cash on a candidate or two.


Thanks to a loyal reader who pointed out the Roll Call article on some 2016 campaign:

On the Democratic side, vulnerable Rep. Brad Ashford raised $200,000. It’s a bit more than Democrats expected for a guy who publicly decried the need to fundraise and who has been shedding staff, but isn’t the figure he should have brought in given his competitive race.

As another put it though, “Will he likely have plenty of cash to be fully competitive in 2016? Yes.


Have a great weekend!

Does Republican = Conservative?

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Self-described “Conservatives” against the Death Penalty

A group of Senators and their hangers-on took to the Capitol Rotunda yesterday to express their desire to repeal the Death Penalty in Nebraska.

They called themselves, and were described by the local media as being “conservative”.

They were all Republicans as well.

So here is the question: If you are a Republican state Senator, are you automatically a “conservative”?

Because anyone can be a Republican. All you have to do is check the box and PRESTO, you’re a Republican! Many politicos would argue that if you want a future in Nebraska politics you’re much much better off registering as a Republican, no matter where you actually land on the political spectrum.

So, lets look at the 10 Republican state Senators who have stated they want to repeal the Death Penalty, and a few of their recent votes:

Colby Coash: Against allowing open votes for Committee Chairs; For repealing mandatory minimums.

Al Davis: For giving illegal aliens drivers licenses; Against allowing open votes for Committee Chairs; For repealing mandatory minimums.

Laura Ebke: For raising the Gas Tax; Against Winner Take All in Nebraska; For repealing mandatory minimums.

Tommy Garrett: For giving illegal aliens drivers licenses; Against allowing open votes for Committee Chairs; For repealing mandatory minimums.

Mark Kolterman: For raising the Gas Tax; Against allowing open votes for Committee Chairs; For repealing mandatory minimums.

Bob Krist: Against allowing open votes for Committee Chairs; For repealing mandatory minimums.

Brett Lindstrom: For raising the Gas Tax.

John McCollister: For raising the Gas Tax; Against Winner Take All in Nebraska; For repealing mandatory minimums.

Now I happened to pick 5 votes — one of which hasn’t come to a vote of the full body yet. And I’m looking at this group, because THEY’RE the ones who have declared themselves “conservative”. (There are others who have comparative voting records on these issues.)

Feel free to pick yours.

At what point does your actual VOTING record trump your declaration that you are “conservative” or, as Bob Krist, who endorsed Democrat Brad Ashford for Congress, declared on the radio:

“I am Republican enough. I am conservative enough.”

Enough for whom?
For your own conscience?
Or how about for those that elected you?

Lindstrom, for one, said his “view of capital punishment has changed since he took office in January.

So, from December to say, February his position changed…on the Death Penalty? You’d think that is something the voters may have been interested in, no? And he flips on such a major issue in a span of 3 months? What’s next?

And he and the other “conservatives” say their support of the repeal say it’s based on money — it’s too expensive to put someone to death. But Governor Ricketts says he has a study that says the cost is negligible.

So if that is the case, then what is the real reason? (And where does someone like Lindstrom stand on that?)

Look, you can be for or against the Death Penalty, for whatever reason you like. But let’s stop calling every Nebraska Republican a “conservative”.

Especially once they have a voting record to review.


And it would seem that we can pretty much declare that the honeymoon that Governor Pete Ricketts had with this overwhelmingly Republican legislature lasted only about a fortnight longer than that of Darva Conger and Rick Rockwell. (Look it up, kids.)

Here, we’ll make it more up to date: The Cigar Bar law was the “connection” date that the girls make with The Bachelor, and then everything after has been the hounding of the now-split couple by TMZ after the Final Rose ceremony.

Winner-Take-All, Gas Tax, Licenses for Illegals, Repeal of Mandatory Minimums, Death Penalty — where is the Governor and his team on this stuff?

When the session started we were convinced that it was all about back-room deals, and that the Gov was playing Chess against the Checkers players in the Unicam.

Instead there is a tremendous leadership void. Many say it goes back to Team Ricketts failing to mend any fences after the primary. It was a dangerous move and was bound to negatively impact huge swaths of the administration — and we are seeing the ramifications on the legislative side first. Where will we see it next?

And here’s a question: Is anyone in the Unicameral afraid of Governor Ricketts? Are there any repercussions for crossing him? Does anyone care? Usually there is significance when you cross a leader. You mess with the bull, you get the horns.

And do these types of situations usually get better?
We are watching and wondering.


Brad Ashford’s fundraising numbers were announced yesterday — raised about $200K with $162K COH — and the reactions varied.

Some local pols thought they were decent enough. Others thought the comparison to Lee Terry (by the OWH) — an eight term Member — were not on the ball at all. They thought a better comparison would, obviously, be to a freshman member who should be working his butt off to raise cash — as opposed to just grabbing the low hanging PAC fruit.

(For instance, Iowa Republican Freshman Rep. David Young, whose district includes Des Moines and Council Bluffs, has raised over $333K, with $351K COH.)

But the OWH is going to support Ashford no matter how goofy he gets. Heck, they wrote an editorial about mandatory minimums and the legislature, and instead of talking to, you know, a member of the legislature, they took quotes from Congressman Ashford! Wha-huh?

A frequent lament of the political class in the 2nd District is that INCUMBENT Ashford just is not going to be easy to beat. They knew that to be the case, no matter how many newbies to the party thought it would be great to get rid of Lee Terry so they could put in a “real” conservative (sniff).

But now you’ve got Ashford. And he is actually able to say the right thing when asked an easy question (“I’m not concerned about campaigning. I’m here to represent the people…“) — even if it IS true that he is a campaigning flake.

Oh, and when Hillary comes to the 2nd to campaign, and dumps a bunch of cash for the local Democrats because Nebraska doesn’t have Winner Take All, just remember how awesome it is that the state bucks what the rest of the country does on that one.


Back to the “conservative” question, remember back in 2006 when Ben Nelson was “conservative enough” for Nebraska — then was the final vote for ObamaCare?

Now there is another consequence of that vote, with a mandate of ObamaCare coming down that will change the definition of small group market from 1-50 employees to 1-100 employees in 2016.

This means employers with 51-100 employees would be subjected to modified community rating, increasing their premium rates and impacting coverage, in addition to dealing with the employer mandate which also takes effect in 2016.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is working to fix that by co-sponsoring a new bill (HR 1624) that would let the states decide how to define those markets. And the aforementioned Brad Ashford may be jumping on it as well.

And the wheels spin.


ICYMI, Senator Fischer spoke to the press on her Equal Pay amendment. See it here:

Don’t be surprised if you see her, more and more, in the national press…

The Wheels Down Politics Show – Ryan Horn

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

Ryan Horn 01Jerry Kratochvil sits down for an interview with political strategist Ryan Horn of Sandler-Innocenzi.

Ryan talks about his background in politics — growing up in Omaha, working on and managing campaigns around the country, working in the corporate world, then eventually managing Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s victory in 2013.

Ryan talks about some of the TV ads that he produced for the Stothert campaign and for Lee Terry’s general election campaign in 2014.

They conclude with Ryan’s thoughts about the 2016 campaign for Nebraska’s 2nd District Congressional seat.

On the web: Sandler-Innocenzi
Twitter: @RyanBHorn


You can find this, and all of our podcasts at WheelsDownPolitics.com and by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.

Who wants more taxes?!

Senator Deb Fischer was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe yesterday and discussed the “inevitability” of Hillary and her equal pay amendment.

See it here:

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Senator Fischer is very “even keel”. She doesn’t get wound up or distracted and stays on message like a champ.

She represents Nebraska well.


Nebraska Unicameral Speaker Galen Hadley made a point to the LJS about raising taxes:

“I’ve heard a lot of the arguments that people in Nebraska do not want to raise taxes,” he said. “I think that’s true if you go out and just ask, ‘Do you want to raise your taxes?’ … But if you say, ‘Are you willing to raise taxes for this purpose?’ you get different answers.

“The idea that Nebraskans do not want to raise taxes I think needs to be couched in terms of: increased taxes for what?”

This is similar to a conversation between Fat Tony and Bart Simpson:

Fat Tony: Bart, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?
Bart: No.
Fat Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?
Bart: Uh uh.
Fat Tony: And, what if your family don’t like bread? They like… cigarettes?
Bart: I guess that’s okay.
Fat Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?
Bart: Hell, no.

So yes, the people can be suckers who can be convinced of anything.
We will concede that.

This vote and Driver’s Licenses for “DREAMers” will be very telling for those in the halls of the capitol.


Appearing on KLIN’s Jack & Dave Show, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler said, “We (the city) are not spending any roads money on anything but roads.”

This seemed to be in response to Republican Mayoral candidate, and Lancaster County Treasurer, Andy Stebbing in the recent Lincoln Chamber of Commerce “debate”, where Stebbing suggested cutting the Lincoln Wheel Tax.

In that forum Beutler said

“That’s nonsense,” said Beutler of Stebbing’s plan, including reducing the wheel tax substantially.

“Our roads are badly underfunded.” That was the reason for raising the wheel tax, Beutler said.

So is Lincoln ONLY spending road money on, you know, roads?

Well, Stebbing points on in a recent release that Beutler spent nearly a million dollars of roads money on, you guessed it, bike paths and sidewalks. You know, those overused bike paths, which are crowded from November through March, full of chuckholes and guys doing cold patches…

Adds Stebbing:

The statement that the city is not spending roads money on anything but roads is pretty definitive and very wrong.

Citizens in Lincoln are unhappy with the conditions of their roads. Is Mayor Beutler trying to hide the fact that some roads money is being spent on bicycle paths and sidewalks, or is it a case where he just doesn’t know?

Nancy Hicks of the LJS told us that Beutler “understands how city government works“.

So, as an expert, was Chris Beutler lying, or does he just not understand how the city spends roads money?


And back at the LJS, Don Walton had this to say about Omaha state Senator Burke Harr:

But not before Harr was able to deliver one of his patented clever lines.
“How much does this bill mean to you?” Sen. Ernie Chambers, an opponent, asked Harr during the debate.
“It means the Woodmen of the World to me,” Harr said.

But Walton apparently missed this one from Harr, as Tweeted by Deena Winter:

“We have some very good debaters in here. They’re very good. Some call them master debaters. That’s not the issue.”

Apparently that’s what passes for funny at Notre Dame…and on the floor of the state legislature.
(It was also hilarious…in the 9th grade.)


And Don Walton, ever the Yankee fan, wishes MLB would “reboot and restart this baseball season“.

Ya see his Yankees, who spend over $200 million dollars on their lineup, are in last place in the the AL East.

Whereas the nearby American League Champion Kansas City Royals, major league club to the Omaha Storm Chasers, are 7-0. Oh, and they spend about a 100 million dollars less on their players than the Yankees.

Oh but hey Don, you’ve still got 39 year old Alex Rodriguez (at first base) making an average of $27M per year. So there’s that.

(And as Rick Pitino might say, Mickey Mantle is NOT walking through that door…)

EXCLUSIVE: Shane Osborn OUT for #NE02

Shane Osborn
Shane Osborn

In an exclusive to Leavenworth St., former State Treasurer and 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Shane Osborn has stated that he will not run for Nebraska’s 2nd District Congressional seat.

Osborn told Leavenworth St.:

This past year has been a great one. Stacie and I are enjoying raising our 4 kids and if that doesn’t keep us busy enough, I launched a new business in addition to my other two. I intend to concentrate my efforts there!

Osborn was expected by many to be an automatic leader in the race, with nearly 100% name ID and a fundraising base.

Instead the race is considered by many to be wide open — with retired General Don Bacon the only officially announced GOP candidate. Chip Maxwell said in 2014 that he would run in the 2016 race, but has not made any further announcements this year.

Other names that have been out mentioned to run are state Senator John Murante, former GOP House candidate Dan Frei, attorney and Douglas County GOP counsel Garth Glissman and possibly former state Senator Tim Gay.

With Osborn’s departure, many others could be tempted to jump in.

Democrat 2nd District Representative Brad Ashford has been lackluster at fundraising and has lost staff because of his apparent disinterest in the 2016 campaign. There have also been rumors that Ashford could be challenged from the left — with the name of current Hastings resident Scott Kleeb thrown around.

Congressional prognosticator Charles Cook has called the 2nd District race a toss-up.

We will keep you updated.

Lin-oma Pols

First a little Frozen Four, UNO Hockey (or “Omaha” hockey, as the national press are calling them) Separated at Birth for ya:

UNO Head Coach Dean Blais and former Grand Island Mayor, Jay Vavricek!

Dean Blais - Jay Vavricek SAB 01

(Boy, that’s Brother-from-another-Mother suff going on there…)


After the closer-than-expected finish in the Lincoln Mayor Primary on Tuesday, the candidates immediately jumped into a forum/debate in front of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

Two term, going for a third, incumbent Democrat Mayor Chris Beutler and Republican Lancaster County Treasurer Andy Stebbing went at it about roads, crime and taxes, among other stuff.

Stebbing already has a record of coming up with innovative ideas, whereas Beutler’s main plans are to raise taxes. But if you want an interesting perspective, you can read LJS reporter Nancy Hicks’ analysis of the forum:

Most of Stebbing’s answers during the debate were short and to the point, while Beutler, who has been mayor for eight years and understands how city government works, provided more detailed information.

(Emphasis added.)

Ha! Niiiiiice Nancy.
This is what passes for unbiased reporting these days, eh?
Outstanding. Next time just add, “and Christopher was like a garden breeze, while that Stebbing fella smelled of beef and cheese!”

(Some think this is really a response to KLIN’s Coby Mach, after Beutler’s fouled-up hit on Stebbing last week.

After Beutler attacked Stebbing for non-payment of property taxes — when Stebbing’s payment sent by his mortgage company hadn’t been processed YET by the Country Treasurer’s office — Mach questioned whether Beutler knew how government works.)

In any case, for your listening pleasure, you can hear Andy Stebbing on my podcast, The Wheels Down Politics Show, here.


Travelling down the road to Omaha, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert sent a letter to Unicameral Speaker Hadley regarding her support for LB623, driver’s licenses for “DREAMers” — kids of illegal immigrants.

Here is the FULL TEXT of the letter:

Dear Speaker Hadley and Members of the Legislature,

LB623 is a bill that would allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) youth, sometimes referred to as DREAMers, to apply for a Nebraska driver’s license. DACA is a program created by the Department of Homeland Security that would give certain young immigrants deferred status and, among other things, make it lawful for states to issue driver’s licenses to them. As Mayor of Nebraska’s largest city, I am in support of LB623.

In order to qualify for the DACA program, an immigrant must meet the following criteria: enter the United States before age 16, currently attend school or have graduated from high school or college, and pose no public safety threat (no felony record). Many of these individuals were brought to this Country very young and know only Nebraska as their home. They have learned English, completed school and contribute to our society in many ways. For most of them, eventual citizenship is their dream.

As Mayor, ensuring public safety is vital, and our Nation’s borders must be secure. Immigration policy should be designed with our Nation’s well-being held in high regard. However, reality tells us that over the decades, millions of people have come into this country contrary to our immigration laws and many were brought here as children, through no fault of their own.

I do support a path to legal status for those who came here as a minor. Here in Omaha, we should make children of undocumented workers who are on a path to legal status have the tools they need to be
productive members of our community. It is time for the federal government to step up and take action by passing comprehensive immigration reform that will also secure our borders.

I would request the Legislature move Senator McCollister’s priority bill out of the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee and pass it into law.

Jean Stothert
Mayor, City of Omaha

You may note that while Mayor Stothert and several other Republicans are for this, several notable Republicans, such as former Governor Heineman, current Governor Ricketts and state Senator Beau McCoy are against.

However, Stothert’s support shouldn’t be a big shock to anyone. She announced her support for this idea way back when she was an Omaha Councilperson running for Mayor in 2013.

Of course back then it wasn’t much of a deal, because ALL of the candidates — Jim Suttle, Dave Nabity, Dan Welch and Brad Ashford — were for allowing DREAMers to apply for driver’s licenses.

At the time Stothert noted she supported the idea, “so that they can legally drive, and go to work and get to school.” It is also worth noting that in the general election, Stothert campaigned hard in, and won, South Omaha’s Ward 4, home of a large Latino population in the city.

The bill has 25 cosponsors, but will need another 5 votes to override a likely veto by Governor Ricketts. It will be interesting to see what comes down on this one. It will be tight.


As an aside, in his story about Mayor Stohert’s letter, the OWH’s Paul Hammel referred to Stothert as “a rising star in the Republican Party”.


I guess if you mean nationally, that would be true. But as far as the state of Nebraska goes, once you’re become the Mayor of Omaha — as opposed to, say, on the city council or a state Senator — your star has pretty much risen.

You can listen to my podcast with Star Republican Jean Stothert on this week’s edition of The Wheels Down Politics Show.


And on the subject of Risen Stars, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer has stepped up her support for women in the workplace with conservative legislation.

In an Op-Ed, she writes:

I fully agree that gender-based pay discrimination is unacceptable. I oppose well intentioned, but ultimately misguided policy prescriptions like the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act, which would hurt merit-based pay and actually curtail flexibility for women to negotiate unique employment arrangements. Instead I have offered alternative ideas on how to combat pay discrimination.

Last year, the Republican women of the Senate offered a legislative proposal that would, among other things, reinforce employers’ obligations to fully apprise employees of their rights regarding pay discrimination. Knowledge is power, and our bill equips women who might otherwise be unaware of their ability to recover lost wages.

The proposal also includes much-needed, non-retaliation language. Such language is similar to an April 8, 2014, executive order signed by President Obama. It does not authorize any new federal regulations, nor does it compel employers to disclose salary information. It prevents punitive action against employees seeking information. It’s very simple — if you want to know how your salary compares to your coworkers, you should have every right to ask. It’s as basic as the First Amendment.

Just two weeks ago, as part of the fiscal 2016 budget, the Republican-led United States Senate passed an amendment I offered containing this equal pay proposal. Unlike previous proposals from Democrats, this idea garnered bipartisan backing and passed with the support of Senators Angus King, I-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. What’s more, 53 Republicans also voted for the idea.

It’s common sense and a fresh solution to an old problem. Any legislator — Republican or Democrat — who is seriously interested in making progress on this issue for women and moving past electioneering and scoring political points should step up and support the proposal. For the first time in over half a century, we have the opportunity to update the Equal Pay Act with a bill that actually provides changes and can realistically pass — my Workplace Advancement Act (S. 875).

Hopefully the rest of the Dems will stop their war on women and support Senator Fischer and her colleagues.


Go Mavs!!!

Lincoln primary analysis: Portland on the Prairie

“Cross of Corn” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

greetings-from-lincoln-nebraska-ne-postcardA few takeaways from yesterday’s Lincoln primary election:

Lincolnites love being taxed.

One reading of yesterday’s results is that taxes are not a significant concern for Lincolnites. With the city sales tax, a significant wheel tax, telecommunications occupation taxes and the arena tax, yesterday Lincoln voters (or the 36,671 who voted—a 23.68% turnout) approved yet another tax increase.

The city’s proposal to raise $34.5 million through a 3-year quarter-cent sales tax increase easily passed by a 20 point margin. This does not bode well for Republican mayoral candidate Andy Stebbing, whose primary criticism of incumbent Chris Beutler has been that Lincoln’s taxes are too high and Beutler raised them. Guess what—Beutler just did his best Doug Neidermeyer, and Lincoln voters said, “Thank you sir, may I have another?

Lincoln is a government town. State government. County government. City government. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There are some in City Hall who dream of turning Lincoln into a Portland-on-the-Plains, with bike routes galore, farmer’s markets every day of the week, green energy for Lincoln Electric System, and clove-smoking granolas hanging out in coffee shops and street corners. After all, Beutler’s heir-apparent—City Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird—was raised in a barn in Portland. It appears that Lincolnites like that direction.

Right now the only thing preventing a complete Portland-on-the-Plains conversion is Lincoln’s orthodox Catholic community, widely regarded as one of the most if not the most conservative dioceses in the country (think Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, both well-liked in Lincoln). So while we may like taxes, “free” services and green initiatives, Lincoln still retains a culturally conservative bent for the time being.


Stebbing demonstrated he’s within striking distance, but . . .

No rational political observer expected Andy Stebbing to win yesterday’s primary, but he needed to show he was a credible candidate and within striking distance (wags put that number at within 10 percent). Stebbing garnered 43 percent in a 3-person race, and achieved that goal.

The chances of Stebbing prevailing in May are not good (only twice in the last 50 years has the candidate who finished second in the primary gone on to win the general election), but he has a shot.

To succeed, he must begin to articulate WHY voters should toss Beutler out (and we now know taxes aren’t the reason) and must be able to tap into Lincoln’s business community, which has been successfully co-opted by the Beutler/Democratic machine in Lincoln. Most Lincoln business owners tolerate Beutler—it’s not hard to look good when you follow Colleen Seng.


Here Comes the Money

There are two council races to watch in the May general.

First, longtime Republican Councilman Jon Camp narrowly defeated former Democrat Councilwoman Patte Newman in District 2 (southeast Lincoln—generally viewed as a higher socio-economic, Republican leaning district). This is not surprising as Camp is a vocal Council member and has earned his stripes taking on the firefighters union and, in our opinion, Camp didn’t campaign very hard.

Second, newcomer Republican Cyndi Lamm won a three-person race for Lincoln’s District 1 (northeast Lincoln—generally viewed as a blue-collar, Democrat district) and will face Meg Mikolajczyk in the general. Mikolajczyk is a single-issue candidate (the issue being LGBTQIA rights) and works for 2014 Democrat Senate nominee Dave Domina. She was not Beutler’s preferred candidate—his team wanted newcomer Mitch Paine to prevail, but Paine looks like he’s 12 (until he started growing a Justin Bieber mustache in the final weeks of the campaign) and didn’t work hard.

Lincolnites can watch as outside money and groups attempt to impact these elections. In the Camp/Newman race, Lincolnites can expect the unions to do an opposition research dump on Camp, and some expect the unions to even go so far as to drag Camp’s son’s recent legal issues into the campaign.

In the Lamm/Mikolajczyk race, voters can expect liberal interest groups and Domina to come to Mikolajczyk’s aid, and it’s anticipated that Sen. Deb Fischer, Gov. Kay Orr and Republican/conservative activists will rally around Lamm. Lamm cannot be easily pigeonholed; she has a compelling personal story (was once homeless), is wicked smart, works hard, and has a bevy of committed campaign volunteers (Rs, Ds and Is) who will door knock until the polls close.

If Camp and Lamm prevail, that will flip the Council from 4D/3R to 4R/3D. If voters want to keep Mayor Beutler around, why not have a check-and-balance on his actions with a Republican-controlled Council?


Lincoln loves Purple Penguins

In recent months the Lincoln Board of Education has received not-so-positive national attention over Purple Penguins, purported social indoctrination on LGBTQIA issues, and teachers being charged with sexual assault.

One parent activist—Rachel Terry—stepped forward and put her name on the line to challenge the administration over the direction of Lincoln Public Schools. She was soundly defeated by Connie Duncan, part of the respected Duncan Aviation family.

Moderate Republicans, Democrats and the teacher’s unions made it clear that Duncan was their choice, and Purple Penguins live another day in Lincoln.


ICYMI, here is Jerry Kratochvil’s interview with Andy Stebbing on Jerry’s podcast, The Wheels Down Politics Show:

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)


Annnnnd, ICYMI, be sure to listen to the latest podcast of The Wheels Down Politics Show where Jerry Kratochvil talks with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

The Wheels Down Politics Show – Mayor Jean Stothert

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

Jean Stothert 005An interview with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

Jerry Kratochvil sits down with Mayor Stothert in her office to talk about where she is almost exactly one half of the way through her term as Mayor. They discuss the new fire union contract and how it actually affects city finances.

Then they look back at some of the promises she made as a candidate in the 2013 election, via the TV ads she ran.

They close by discussing the one Omaha restaurant that many don’t know about, but should.

Offical Website: City of Omaha – Mayor Jean Stothert
Facebook: Jean Stothert
Twitter: @Jean_Stothert


You can find this, and all of our podcasts at WheelsDownPolitics.com and by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.

Watchdog’s Joe Jordan to work for Ashford

Joe Jordan 01Leavenworth St. has learned that Joe Jordan, Managing Editor and Investigative Reporter for Nebraska Watchdog, will soon take a position as 2nd District office communications director for Democrat Congressman Brad Ashford.

(Confirmed 3 hours later by the OWH.)

While the move of a previously “independent” reporter onto a Democrat office holder’s staff has now become cliché, the full reason for Jordan’s move from Watchdog is still unknown.

It was thought that Jordan had recently signed a long-term contract with Watchdog. However, there was a story going around (from whom, it’s not clear) that Watchdog was shaking things up nationally, and that Jordan would not be part of the long-term plan.

We have heard a much different story however.


Joe Jordan noted in a post on Watchdog back on August 20, 2013 that Nebraska Watchdog would NOT be covering the Nebraska Governor’s race. Why?

“…because of (Pete) Ricketts’ financial relationship with the Franklin Center, Nebraska Watchdog has decided not to report on the governor’s campaign while Ricketts is a likely or actual candidate.”

Jordan also noted that…

“…no donor to the Franklin Center, and there are many, have (sic) any editorial control over Nebraska Watchdog’s content.”

Some bloggers out there asked why, if no one was controlling their content, Nebraska Watchdog couldn’t have just put a disclaimer at the end of any story on the Governor’s race. Many media outlets and newspapers — think Warren Buffet and the OWH — have owners whom they report on.

But by failing to cover the race at all, Nebraska Watchdog opened itself up to the notion that there WAS editorial control exerted by donors. Or that any donor’s influence was so well known that they couldn’t be reasonable.

Or maybe that any donors just didn’t want to give Joe Jordan the green-light to hammer them, like Jordan loves to do.


Circle back then a few months after Pete Ricketts enters office.

One of the first controversies of the new administration was whether Ricketts’ top staffer could work for him while at the same time keeping and working for her private clients who have state business.

Watchdog, via reporter Deena Winter, reported on how Ricketts’ staff was using private email accounts for public business (a’ la Hillary) but that the issue had pretty much been cleared up.

But what of the other controversy about the staffer who was working two jobs?

Watchdog simply linked to an OWH story.
And Joe Jordan’s stink-eye and in-your-face account was no where to be seen on the issue.


So did Jordan WANT to cover THAT issue?
Did he WANT to be more of the hard-nosed reporter on Ricketts?

Well, here is the LAST on-camera interview Jordan did with Ricketts where Ricketts said he wouldn’t  “tighten seat belt laws“:

Pretty softball stuff, all in all. But, after Ricketts says he wants people to wear seat belts, Jordan does get in one snarky line with, “you SAY that, when statistics show that when there are SERIOUS car wrecks, people not wearing seat belts are more likely to die..

And Governor Pete Ricketts gives him this face:

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 7.34.47 AM

With rumors swirling that Jordan wanted to push Ricketts on the issue of his staffer’s double jobs, he ends up out of a job with Watchdog.

We can all wait to see what the official story is.
Why Joe Jordan left Watchdog. What their “mission” was.
Why he went to work as a press-flak for a Democrat Congressman.

But it was interesting that when the Columbia Journalism Review did an extensive story about Watchdog’s coverage of the Ernie Chambers blow-up, they failed to note that Nebraska Watchdog’s main funder was the guy who is now the sitting Governor.

And just exactly how much influence he is exerting on the coverage of his administration by the media.


First, a Separated at Birth passed on by  loyal reader John Orr…

From Governor Ricketts’ office, Public Relations Director Taylor Gage and from NBC’s The Office, John Krasinski!

Taylor Gage - John Krasinski

(That one’s scary, yeah?)


Speaking of the Governor, Ricketts has come out strong against the bill in the Nebraska legislature that proposes a raise to the Gas Tax.

However, that bill just passed the first of three rounds, before it would go to the Governor’s pen, by a vote of 26-10.

Annnnnd…along with various GOP members who have supported the tax increase is the think-tank founded by Ricketts, the Platte Institute.

Platte Institute Director Jim Vokal forwarded their position to Leavenworth St.

They conclude their analysis, saying…

Nebraskans also need general relief for both property and income taxes. Offsetting it with a gas tax increase will lessen the stress placed on county and general funds. A functional transportation system coupled with lower tax rates is an investment in both our infrastructure and our people, and the best way to grow our state.

Interestingly, after a Tweet on the disconnect between Platte and Ricketts, this short flurry went by:

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.56.10 AM

So we will see where all of that lands.
Platte likes the bill, but maybe doesn’t?

Senator Kitner doesn’t like the bill, and likely won’t.

The Gov seems pretty firm on it. Could any changes change his mind?

This will be a big issue to watch.


It was noted here that former Governor Heineman Chief of Staff, Larry Bare, left…as Director of the Department of Administrative Services. Some had commented that Bare left on his own accord because he planned to “retire”.

Well, except that he JUST took a gig with the Legislature as a “senior research consultant”.

It is probably a good thing for Nebraska that arguably the person most knowledgable about state government is still working there — at least in one of the branches.


If you didn’t listen to The Wheels Down Politics Show interview with state Senator John Murante...well, one can’t say just what sort of animal you are, but it ain’t a political animal!

In any case, you might want to take a hear, and listen to Murante’s thoughts about running for the GOP nomination for Nebraska’s 2nd District Congressional seat.

Murante didn’t say he is “in”. But he didn’t say he isn’t in.

It may not be surprising to see some Murante for Congress signs up in less than a year…

(So listen to the show already! Oh, and tell your friends. We have more good interviews coming soon!)


Happy Passover, a blessed Good Friday and a Happy Easter to ya’ll!