Author: NEPolitico 1867

NEPolitico 1867 is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

Still No Dems in Sight

Kleeb Coming Up Short

Still no word on any Democrat candidates for constitutional offices — including Governor. Despite Jane Kleeb’s stardom and supposed focus on recruitment, there are still no Democrat candidates for statewide representation in Lincoln.

And ICYMI, Independent candidate for governor, i.e. de facto Democrat candidate, Bob Krist found his way out of Omaha in a fly around across the state. Don Walton’s column this week mentioned Krist’s uphill battle in fundraising. Getting on the ballot seems like a more immediate problem.

Team huddle

Last Friday and Saturday, Republican leaders from across the state came together for the fall NEGOP State Central Committee meeting in Kearney. Governor Pete Ricketts, Senator Deb Fischer, Secretary of State candidate Bob Evnen, Senator Mike Groene, Senator John Lowe, and others were in attendance.

Senator John Murante, who has been on the trail for State Treasurer for months, was there — as expected. But the meeting also turned out his primary opponent Taylor Royal, hardly a regular at these functions.

Ricketts and Fischer rallied the crowd, speaking of the importance of electing conservative leaders up and down the ballot, from their races to state legislative races. The committee also passed a resolution supporting Fischer’s re-election.

More Q3

The rest of the federal fundraising numbers are out and Republicans continue to lead.

In the US Senate race, Fischer handily outraised her Democrat opponent Jane Raybould. Fischer raised $585k with more than $2.1 million cash on hand to Raybould’s $140k raised and $117k cash on hand. Raybould’s number includes $25k she loaned herself. Rough start for what should be a big first quarter in the race.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry raised $107k and finished with an astounding $1.7 million cash on hand. His Democrat opponents ran far behind – Dennis Crawford raised $1,700 and has just $8k cash on hand. Jessica McClure raised $2,700 and had just $859 cash on hand at the end. There’s just no comparison with the Fort.

Congressman Adrian Smith raised $175k and ended Q3 with $1.1 million cash on hand.

State of Play

Battle Royal(e)

Taylor Royal is back – this time, for State Treasurer. After spending a small portion of the Royal family fortune on his failed Omaha mayoral race to unseat Jean Stothert, the young man in a hurry is now contesting John Murante for State Treasurer.

To be sure, Murante has a head start endorsements locked up across the state. Governor Pete Ricketts, Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley, Former Governor Kay Orr, Senator Mike Hilgers, Senator Suzanne Geist, Former Senator Colby Coash, Regent Tim Clare, Lincoln City Council Members, Roy Christensen, Jon Camp, and Cyndi Lamm, make the list. All of the Republican members of City Council – Aimee Melton, Brinker Harding, and Rich Pahls – have also already endorsed Murante.

For his part, Taylor Royal can count on Jean Stothert – an alliance forged through necessity.

Speaking of endorsements…

Senator Deb Fischer’s campaign rolled out an impressive list of 500 endorsements last week, ranging from elected officials to party activists and even some Democrats (also noteworthy: Brad Ashford’s father-in-law, Dr. Randy Ferlic joined the list).

While the beltway talking-heads are salivating at the thought of Republican-on-Republican action here in the heartland, Fischer is solid with her conservative base, has strong support in the state party, and has a formidable infrastructure already in place. As Omaha World-Herald columnist Brad Dickinson wrote, “Steve Bannon would reportedly like to find someone to the right of Sen. Deb Fischer to run against her. How would you find someone to the right of Deb Fischer? Exhume Barry Goldwater?”

With friends like these…

Last month, Democrat Senate candidate Jane Raybould scheduled a “big” fundraiser with former Senator Ben Nelson (i.e. the deciding vote on ObamaCare and the father of the Cornhusker Kickback). Raybould’s campaign promoted it through email solicitations and social media, touting it as a marquee event…

Well as it turns, Leavenworth Street has learned fewer than two dozen folks showed up…and to boot, even Senator Nelson didn’t end up making it. Sounds like Raybould’s fundraising is off to a great start.  We’ll all be watching carefully to see what her first FEC report looks like.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

The beloved Unicameral

Has anyone checked out the Legislature’s schedule for next session?  The legislative calendar includes 16 days off, meaning of the 60 days in session, they’re really just working 44.

Our state senators are part-part time legislators and hold real jobs outside of the Unicameral, so you’d think they’d look to make the most of session. Apparently, they’re fine cashing in that $1,000 a month for 44 days of work a year, that is, if they show up.

It used to be that all Senators were present for almost every vote, especially to vote up or down on the Final Reading. Somehow, this current group of legislators also gets a free pass on voting “present” instead of making tough decisions. Isn’t that what they are sent to Lincoln to do? So much for accountability.

That’s not the Nebraska way, that’s a play out of State Senator Obama’s handbook.

Race to the bottom in CD-2

And finally, numbers posted for the Q3 FEC deadline over the weekend in the CD-2 race. Congressman Don Bacon raised a strong $250k for the quarter, setting him up for a solid war chest in the general.

Meanwhile, it seems Brad Ashford and Kara Eastman are competing for third place.  Ashford raised just $125k to Eastman’s $70k in Q3. Where’s Brad’s legendary support from the Omaha business community? Not there yet.

Either way, enthusiasm is low on the Democrats’ side in that race.

Maybe Jane Kleeb will be able to rally the troops… She’s done a great job in the Governor’s race so far!

Of note: Ashford took a $2k check from everyone’s favorite legislator: Nancy Pelosi.

Big Ben

At it again

ICYMI, Jonah Goldberg debuted his new podcast The Remnant with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. The senator covers a number of issues, including Alabama Judge Roy Moore, creedal minorities, and urinating in a corn field.

Speaking of corn fields, Sasse is scheduled to speak in Iowa (again).

CNN reports: “On the right: SASSE TO IOWA AGAIN: Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a strident conservative but also a Donald Trump critic, will make his second trip of the year to Iowa on November 18 to speak at a fundraising dinner hosted by Bob Vander Plaats’ socially conservative organization The Family Leader.”


Sasse continues to have an aggressive national media presence and travel footprint, but has been relatively quiet in the Senate (and here at home in Nebraska).

Has the famed Trump critic been tamed?

What does he do all day?

Today’s edition of the Omaha World-Herald reports that Sasse was a no-show at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on DACA.

OWH reporter Joe Morton writes, “Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the committee, hasn’t commented publicly on DACA since Trump’s decision and did not attend Tuesday’s hearing. Sasse spokesman James Wegmann said Sasse would be submitting questions to witnesses in writing.”

Recall, Sasse left the Agriculture Committee for this Judiciary perch. Apparently, this hearing wasn’t a priority for the senator.

To be fair, senators often have competing hearings scheduled at the same time in different locations.

For example, there was also a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, where members had the chance to quiz Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford on the president’s strategy in Afghanistan – big witnesses, big topic.

Yet, my search for Sasse’s questions in the hearing came up short. I realize I am nothing but a lowly C-SPAN viewer, but it does not appear the senator even showed up to listen to the testimony on this critical topic.

Well, what about Nebraska’s senior senator, also a member of the Armed Services Committee?

Apparently, she showed up – and even asked questions.

Don Walton with the Lincoln Journal Star covered Senator Fischer’s questioning: “Fischer queries top military officials about Afghanistan strategy.”

What gives?

The word on the street was that Sasse is a fountain of intellectual curiosity. After sixteen years at war, one would think Sasse could come up with a single decent question.

I don’t doubt that he can, I just wonder why he won’t.

Is Sasse ducking the hot topics to avoid taking positions on tough issues? And if so, why?

Eye on the Oval?

Or, maybe there’s another book in the works… Good news for the struggling parents of the world.

If anyone figures it out, please let us know. Inquiring minds are wondering.

Ready to Rumble

A Salute to the Volunteers

Last night, 300 of our state’s most committed and hardworking political volunteers gathered at the Omaha Hilton to mark the NEGOP’s Founders’ Day — an annual tribute to the party faithful who do the yeoman’s work knocking on doors, walking in parades, and making phone calls for candidates they believe in.

These Nebraskans are some of our best. They embody the kind of civic engagement and respectful participation in the democratic process we need more of around the country.

Governor Pete Ricketts brought his buddy and fellow businessman-turned-governor of Arizona Doug Ducey as the keynote. Ducey did a nice job walking through Nebraska’s many successes and recounted his own disbelief on Election Day 2016 when Donald Trump turned the political world on its head. Ducey was affable, self effacing, and ended with a call to grow the party. Can I get an Amen?

It was a gathering of Nebraska political heavyweights. There was a lot of love in the room for Senator Deb Fischer as she reminded us of her deep love for Nebraska while introducing Governor Pete Ricketts. Don Bacon and his indefatigable enthusiasm were both present and accounted for, as was the ever congenial Adrian Smith, Jeff Fortenberry, Jean Stothert, Rita Sanders, Aimee Melton, and many, many other electeds who had gathered to say thank you to the men and women whose blood, sweat, and tears give them the chance to govern.

Ben Sasse was not there, but had a letter read. Many in the room were hoping to hear from him on the upcoming healthcare bill, but alas his schedule required him to be elsewhere. Rumor has it he was in Cali with donors – surf’s up!

The energy and organization of the NEGOP was on full display last night. With marquee races for the Governor, US Senate, 3 House seats, all of the constitutional offices, and 24 seats in the legislature, Nebraska Republicans are ready to get to work, and make no mistake, they are ready to rumble.

Kleeb on the Ropes

It’s also worth noting that the Nebraska Dems still can’t land candidates to enter most of the statewide races — most glaringly, the race for GOVERNOR. And oddly, the NDP twitter account is shilling for independent candidate Bob Krist. Weird, right? Do they realize Krist will also be looking to take down their future standard bearer, if they can find one? Or has Kleeb just given up?

I hear she is considering a bid herself, but presumably she is shrewd enough to know she is too extreme to ever win a statewide race. A loss would tarnish her brand, so my guess is she stays on the sidelines. Safer that way.

Not sure Jane Kleeb can claim to lead a credible statewide party without a candidate for governor. Conversations with traditional Democrat party stalwarts in both Lincoln and Omaha over recent weeks continue to lay bare the mistrust and skepticism with which Kleeb is viewed. Her extreme views on issues from abortion to Keystone and her disregard for hardworking union members have pushed many old school Democrats out.

Bernie’s Back in NE Politics

Did anyone else catch that the NDP Twitter account endorsed Bernie Sanders’ single-payer government run healthcare scheme? Quite a statement for the state party.

Serious question: Was that party position discussed at a committee meeting or just trigger happy Jane going on gut? My bet’s on the latter, but please enlighten me if this was debated and agreed upon by the state party.

Kara Eastman, who is eager to pass any litmus test the left can throw her way, was quick to get in formation and support Bernie. Brad Ashford is still polling, no doubt, but made some incoherent rumination expressing concern on it. And not a peep from the Nebraska Democrat Senate candidate, Jane Raybould. Surprise, surprise.

Anyone who is unsure of a position on this should call Heath Mello and ask him how Bernie’s magic worked out for him. I hear has a lot of time on his hands.