November 29, 2014

Nebraska Congressman says voters want Washington to work (AUDIO)

Congressman Adrian Smith speaks with constituents

Congressman Adrian Smith speaks with constituents

Americans shook up Washington during the elections across the country and one Nebraska Congressman says voters expressed frustration with Washington at the ballot box.

Congressman Adrian Smith sees the election as not necessarily an endorsement of the Republican Party, but a desire by voters that Washington pursue a different direction.

That different direction just might be a return to regular order.

Smith complains that the House approved hundreds of pieces of legislation only to see them die in the Senate. Some of the legislation in the Republican-controlled House carried a very partisan message and had no chance in the Senate, controlled by Democrats. Yet, Smith is quick to add that even legislation with bipartisan support languished once it moved across the Capitol to the Senate.

Whether Washington will function again under the new Congress, now firmly in Republican control, remains to be seen.

Smith says President Barack Obama might have increased the difficulty when he by-passed Congress and the normal legislative process to sign an executive order exempting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation.

“This amnesty from the president by executive order I think really undermines this process,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Smith says he has concerns about whether the president violated the Constitution with his unilateral action. It certainly hasn’t been given a warm reception by Republicans, angered that shortly after an election seen as a referendum on the president’s policies Obama defied Congress on immigration policy.

With Republicans gaining seats in the House and taking control of the Senate, Smith hopes President Obama doesn’t dismiss Republican ideas.

“He has been very dismissive of the issues of concern to Republicans over the last six years.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Sen. Fischer looks forward to move into majority (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer talks with the media

Sen. Deb Fischer talks with the media

Sen. Deb Fischer looks forward to serving in the majority in the United States Senate next year.

Fischer has served for two years in the minority, chafing under a Democratic leader not friendly to Republican input.

Fischer, a Republican, says voters spoke loudly in 2014 against such tactics.

“I think people want to see action. They want to see the Senate and the federal government get some things done,” Fischer says.

Fischer, as well as Sen. Mike Johanns, complained often about the leadership of Majority Leader, Democrat Harry Ried, a Senator from Nevada. Both claim Reid blocked debate on legislation, not allowing bills to come to the Senate floor that he thought might prove harmful to Democrats at the polls.

The 2014 General Election flipped control of the Senate, giving it to Republicans who have chosen Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell as the new Majority Leader.

Fischer expects McConnell to return the Senate to its traditional business activity with committees approving and passing legislation onto the floor for debate and amendment.

Sen. Johanns leaves the Senate at the end of the year. Ben Sasse, also a Republican, will be sworn in when the new Congress convenes.

Nebraska will be served in the United States Senate with the least experience of any delegation. Fischer has served for only two years. Sasse is a rookie.

Still, Fischer says Nebraskans shouldn’t be ill at ease about such inexperience.

“Nebraskans I don’t think have anything to fear about the delegation and the work that we will continue to do for them.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

What will become of the Sasse RV?


The Sasse RV, which became a focal point of Ben Sasse’s successful US Senate campaign, now resides at a Lincoln truck sales and service lot.

United States Senator-elect Ben Sasse says the secret to his success was traveling the state.

“We had a great experience spending better than a year traveling the 93 counties and listening to Nebraskans,” Sasse, a Republican, says about his successful campaign to succeed Sen. Mike Johanns.

Sasse made his trips across Nebraska highly visible, driving the state in a RV emblazoned with his name in big, red letters.

But what happens to the RV now that the election is over?

Ben Sasse lived and worked on his RV during much of the Senate campaign

Ben Sasse lived and worked on his RV during much of the Senate campaign

“Somebody recently, in one of the other interviews, told me that they would take $5,000 from us and they would be willing to take the bus,” Sasse quips while talking to reporters. “So, I think it has a negative value. It needs some sort of pandemic detoxification.”

Despite what Sasse says, the RV now resides at a Lincoln truck sales and service lot.

The campaign won’t disclose its fate.

Gale disappointed not quite half of Nebraska voters turned out for election

Brent Martin (right) interviews Sec. of State John Gale

Brent Martin (right) interviews Sec. of State John Gale in his office/Photo courtesy of the Secretary of State’s Office

Secretary of State John Gale says he’s disappointed with the voter turnout for the General Election.

Gale says he’s pleased the 47.5% turnout this year beat the 43% turnout in 2010, but still disappointed turnout didn’t reach the 50% mark he had projected.

“I deeply appreciate everybody who did vote, don’t mistake me there, but we’re a state with a strong civic pride, strong patriotic pride, a strong sense of who we are and we really should be seeing a 60-65% turnout in these gubernatorial cycles,” Gale tells Nebraska Radio Network.

About 66 of the state’s 93 counties had a voter turnout of 50% or higher.

McPherson County in west-central Nebraska recorded the highest voter turnout with 72%. Thurston County in northeast Nebraska had the lowest, at 31%.

Presidential years attract more voters. In 2008, 71% of the state’s registered voters cast ballots. That percentage slipped a bit in 2012, when the turnout reached 29%.

State voter turnout fell just short of Gale’s projected 50% despite open races for governor and United States Senator as well as an increase in the state minimum wage on the ballot.

“I don’t know how much you could put on the banquet table to attract people to turn out and vote and yet its 47.4%,” Gale says. “So, I guess I am disappointed. But, I will say this, that the national average turnout was about 36%. That’s the lowest national average turnout since 1942.”

Gale says there will have to be a lot of analysis done before any decisions can be made to increase voter turnout.

About a quarter of the voters in the General Election cast ballots early, an increase in early voting over the last non-presidential election.

Gale says the tradition of going to the polls on Election Day remains strong here.

“In Nebraska, still, people love going to their polling site,” according to Gale. “When you have 23% who are early voters, that’s a nice percentage, but it’s certainly not a majority. In Colorado and in Washington, both had a majority, over 50% of people were voting early before they went statewide.”

About 18% of the votes cast in 2010 were cast early. Early voting increased in 2012, with 28% voting early.

Gov. Hieneman says voters sent a message

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says voters sent a message to Washington in the 2014 elections.

Heineman, a Republican, says the big Republican wins throughout the United States should be taken as a very powerful statement.

“At the federal level, all across America, the American people sent a very powerful message: we want you to get something done at the federal level, quit arguing, start working together, and focus on our concerns; the economy, jobs, the education of our children,” Heineman tells reporters.

Heineman says he’s pleased Nebraska voters elected fellow Republicans Pete Ricketts as governor and Ben Sasse as United States Senator.

Heineman sees Ricketts as a good successor as governor.

“Who’s going to focus on additional tax relief, strengthening our education system, moving forward in a number of other areas,” according to Heineman. “I’m very pleased Ben Sasse got elected to the United States Senate. He is a bright, intelligent, caring individual and I believe he’s a rising star in the Republican Party.”

As for the result of the legislative races, it appears certain the Unicameral will be more conservative in 2015, according to Heineman.

“The legislature, it’s clear to me that it’s going to be more conservative. They heard loud and clear from Nebraskans; taxes are too high, property and income taxes especially and we need to do something about it,” Heineman says. “But the issues are the same. At the end of the day, it’s what we’ve done for ten years. It’s all about education and jobs.”