September 1, 2015

Senator Fischer looking forward to a “robust” primary election

At last check there at least sixteen Republicans running for president. Nebraska U-S Senator Deb Fischer says a robust primary election is good for this country.

Senator Fischer says, “You get to hear where candidates are on issues. That is the most important thing and that is what we need to focus on. Who has the best solutions out there. What is their judgement on those issues but one of the most important things is who has a vision or where they want this country to go.”

Senator Fischer says she remains very optimistic. She says, “I want somebody with a positive vision out there. I want someone who believes were are exceptional as a people and as a country and who will lead us in a positive and brighter future.”

Senator Fischer says we are seeing that on both political sides.

Opponents of death penalty prepare for long campaign (AUDIO)

Boxes of petitions delivered to the Secretary of State

Boxes of petitions delivered to the Secretary of State

Opponents of the death penalty are preparing for what could be a long campaign on capital punishment.

Nebraskans for Public Safety opposed the petition drive to place the death penalty on the November ballot next year with its “Decline to Sign” campaign.

But far more than enough signatures to get on the ballot were turned in.

“We are carefully monitoring the validation process now and as it moves to the county level and we’ll be continuing to expand our outreach to include more campaign partners,” Danielle Conrad, spokeswoman for Nebraskans for Public Safety, tells Nebraska Radio Network.

A referendum petition drive conducted by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty gathered nearly 167,000 signatures in an effort to have voters decide whether Nebraska retains the death penalty. Only around 57,000 have to be validated as those from registered voters to secure a spot on the November ballot next year. If just shy of 114,000 are certified, the petition drive can prevent the Unicameral’s repeal of the death penalty from going into effect.

The Unicameral repealed the death penalty this past legislative session. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed LB 268, but lawmakers overrode his veto at the end of the session.

The referendum effort began shortly thereafter.

Conrad expects a vigorous campaign should it come to that, with interest from outside groups.

“We anticipate that this will continue to receive a high level of interest beyond the borders, but we’re definitely focused on what we can do to visit with Nebraska voters and to build up our Nebraska coalition,” Conrad says.

The Secretary of State has sorted, date-stamped, and numbered the petitions. They now have been sent to the counties for verification by local election authorities, which could take a little more than a month.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Gov. Ricketts not worried that GOP presidential field is crowded

Gov. Pete Ricketts shares a laugh with reporters while answering questions

Gov. Pete Ricketts shares a laugh with reporters while answering questions

Gov. Pete Ricketts says he’s pleased with the field of Republican candidates for president, crowded though it may be.

Ricketts, a Republican, says there are a number of good candidates in the Republican field.

“Obviously, I’m biased toward governors just in general, being a governor myself. I think it does give you a perspective about how you run organizations. That’s important,” Ricketts tells reporters. “Not that the private sector experience that some of our candidates have is unimportant. Certainly, I’m bringing my private sector experience to help us do a better job of running government here in Nebraska. It’s really I think why the people of Nebraska hired me. But, I will tell you, I think we have great candidates, they bring different perspectives.”

The number of candidates has caused problems of its own.

Fox News and CNN have been criticized for the methods the cable news channels have used to decide the make-up of their Republican debates.

At present, there are 17 announced Republican candidates for president.

Businessman Donald Trump leads the GOP field according to public opinion polls as the presidential candidates visit Iowa, the site of the first true presidential test, the Iowa caucus early next year.

Ricketts says he has never met Trump.

Ricketts says a crowded field has some benefits.

“Well, you may recall that I had a crowded primary,” Ricketts says, laughing. “And, in the Senate race, I had a contested primary as well. And, I have to tell you, I think primaries make you a better candidate. So, I certainly do not think that there’s a disadvantage to having so many great candidates in the field. Will it make a tough choice for voters? Yeah. That’s not a bad thing that the voters have a lot of great candidates to be able to choose from.”

Gov. Ricketts pleased with death penalty petition drive success (AUDIO)

Gov. Pete Ricketts stands with supporters of the death penalty at an earlier news conference.

Gov. Pete Ricketts stands with supporters of the death penalty at an earlier news conference.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is pleased that it appears Nebraska voters will decide the fate of the death penalty.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty gathered far more signatures than needed to force a vote on the death penalty next November. The Secretary of State’s office has begun the verification process.

“Well, I’m very pleased with the results of the petition gathering,” Gov. Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I’m confident that Nebraskans will have the opportunity to vote on this issue. I think it’s something they deserve to have.”

Ricketts invested time and money in this campaign. The governor was the largest individual donor to the effort, giving at least $200,000 to the effort. Ricketts won’t say how much more, if any more, he has contributed, stating only that that would be disclosed in the coming campaign financing report.

Ricketts defends his contributions.

“Ultimately the citizens of Nebraska will make the decision about whether or not they want to retain the death penalty or not,” Ricketts says. “I’m merely facilitating that.”

The petition drive gathered nearly 167,000 signatures. Only about 114,000 need to be verified as those of registered voters to keep the repeal of capital punishment from going into effect.

Ricketts vetoed LB 268, but the Unicameral overrode his veto and repealed the death penalty.

Shortly after the override, a petition drive began to force the issue to a vote of the people in November of 2016.

Ricketts expects voters to overturn the legislature’s repeal.

“I believe the legislature was very out of touch with the way the overwhelming number of Nebraskans feel about this issue and I think this demonstrates that Nebraskans want to have the opportunity to be able to vote on it.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Long process of death penalty petition verification begins

Deputy of Elections Neal Erickson sorts through the petitions filed by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty/Photo courtesy of Sec. of State's office

Deputy of Elections Neal Erickson sorts through the petitions filed by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty/Photo courtesy of Sec. of State’s office

Now, the verification process begins.

Secretary of State John Gale says it will take a while to verify the nearly 167,000 signatures turned in to place the death penalty on the ballot next year.

“This is a time of sorting of a considerable quantity of material,” Gales tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We received stacks of boxes yesterday, 93 boxes of the petitions that have been accumulated by the proponents of the repeal.”

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty gathered more than enough signatures to meet two thresholds. If approximately 57,000 are verified as belonging to registered voters, the issue makes the November 2016 ballot. If nearly 114,000 are verified, the referendum succeeded in blocking the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty from going into effect.

The workers at the Secretary of State’s office will sort, number, and label petition sheets then send them to county election authorities for verification of signatures as those from registered voters.

Secretary of State John Gale says the counties will have 40 days to verify signatures.

“The county election officials have a really onerous burden in order to go through the voter registration data base and then make those comparisons in a conscientious fashion, which they will,” Gale says.

Gale says gathering 166,692 signatures is a significant achievement.

“I would say that that’s a pretty significant number of signatures that have been gathered,” Gales says. “Consequently, I don’t anticipate any difficulty, I would not predict, but I would not anticipate any difficulty of their achieving the 10% level, which would stay the law.”

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty have left plenty of room for error. Gale points out the group gathered nearly 50% more than the total needed to block the legislative repeal of capital punishment from taking effect.

“I think they can, with pretty safe confidence, feel that they’ve met that goal.”