November 22, 2014

Sec. of State Gale prefers geographic mandate for petitions (AUDIO)


Secretary of State John Gale

Nebraska’s top election authority believes the state initiative petition process needs to have a geographic component.

A federal judge has struck down the requirement that initiative petition organizers must gather signatures of at least five percent of the registered voters in 38 of the Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Secretary of State John Gale favors some sort of geographic requirement.

“There shouldn’t be a rush to allow all of the signatures to be gained from the largest or the top-three counties,” Gale tells Nebraska Radio Network. “There certainly needs to be something like, maybe, Congressional District distribution.”

Senior United States District Judge Joseph Bataillon threw out the geographic requirement in the state initiative petition process. The judge ruled the current requirement gave too much weight to rural voters over urban voters, violating the equal protection clause of the federal Constitution.

While Gale would like to see some geographic requirement in the process, he says even one based on Congressional districts could leave out much of western Nebraska.

“And so, if you said Congressional District distribution equally, you probably wouldn’t need to go west of Columbus to get a third of the signatures you need on an initiative petition,” according to Gale.

The state could appeal the ruling. The Attorney General’s office says it will talk with Gale about a possible appeal.

If an appeal isn’t made, Gale expects the Unicameral to consider a change in the law to accommodate the ruling.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Ashford says he’s excited to get started in Congress (AUDIO)

Democrat Brad Ashford declares victory in 2nd Congressional District race

Democrat Brad Ashford declares victory in 2nd Congressional District race

Nebraska has a new face in its Congressional delegation, with a different party affiliation.

State Senator Brad Ashford pulled off a difficult feat on Election Day. Ashford, a Democrat, defeated an incumbent Republican Congressman.

“I’ve been asked several times was this a vote against Lee Terry,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I like to think that it was more a vote for change in direction.”

Ashford speculates the election might have turned on what Congress hasn’t done, its inability to resolve lingering issues.

Ashford received 81,720 votes, or 48.75% of the vote. Terry won 77,103 votes, according to the Nebraska Secretary of State unofficial total, or 45.99% of the vote. A third candidate, Libertarian Steve Laird, won 8,824, or 5.26% of the vote.

In an election that highly favored Republicans, Ashford grabbed a Congressional seat for Democrats. Still, Ashford won election into the United States House of Representatives controlled by Republicans. He says he plans to bring a bit of Nebraska independent politics to the nation’s capital. Though a Democrat, Ashford served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the officially non-partisan Unicameral.

As for a Republican dominated Nebraska Congressional delegation, Ashford doesn’t seem worried. He says he is good friends with Sen. Deb Fischer as well as Congressman Adrian Smith, both of whom served in the Unicameral. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Senator-elect Ben Sasse have already reached out to Ashford after the election. Ashford went to law school at Creighton University in Omaha with Sen. Mike Johanns.

Ashford, who just turned 65, says being elected to Congress is something he’s always wanted to do.

“It’s great. I’ve been educated in this process in Lincoln and I’m anxious to get started representing the people of this district,” Ashford says. “I’ve done that in Lincoln for a long time. It’s what gets me up in the morning and I’m excited.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Judge strikes down geographic requirement in Nebraska petitions

gavel thumbnailA federal judge has struck down part of the state initiative petition requirement.

Senior United States District Judge Joseph Bataillon threw out the requirement that petition organizers must gather signatures of at least five percent of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Attorney Dave Domina, who represented Omaha resident Kent Bernbeck in his challenge of the regulation, says the judge ruled the geographic requirement distorted the process.

“Because they give excess weight to signatures from sparsely populated counties as compared with those from counties with greater populations,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Bataillon found that the Nebraska law gave more weight to rural voters than urban voters.

Domina says the judge got it right.

“In order to assure that the one-man, one-vote or one-person, one-vote principle is observed, it’s necessary that each signature on an initiative or referendum petition have equal force and effect with any other signature,” according to Domina.

Domina says the ruling likely will pave the way for more initiatives to make it on the ballot in Nebraska.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this story.


Congressman Fortenberry sees simple message in election results (AUDIO)

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry speaks with a constituent

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry speaks with a constituent

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry believes Americans sent a message to Congress last Tuesday: get to work.

Fortenberry takes away a simple message from the elections last Tuesday.

“People want Washington to change. People want things to get done,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I don’t read into it a particular wave one way or the other, they just want new people in there who are committed to try to achieve constructive policy for the benefit of all America.”

Fortenberry easily won re-election, garnering 122,350 votes, or nearly 69% of the total to Democrat Dennis Crawford’s 55,000 votes, or 31%.

Fortenberry says he has a two-fold job: help make sound law and provide constituent services.

A Republican, Fortenberry says Congress will function again under his party’s control. Fortenberry criticizes the Democrats who ran the United States Senate, claiming they bottled up legislation, refusing to consider measures approved in the U.S. House.

He says Congress needs to move legislation and place it on the desk of President Barack Obama.

It’s up to Obama, according to Fortenberry, to sign or veto legislation or to seek compromise with Congress on issues.

In other words, Washington needs to work again.

“But right now it is stuck, it is paralyzed, it’s in stasis,” according to Fortenberry. “The American people have soundly rejected that.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Ricketts honored to be elected Nebraska governor (AUDIO)

Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts (left) listens to Gov. Dave Heineman during their meeting  in the governor's office

Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts (left) listens to Gov. Dave Heineman during their meeting in the governor’s office

Governor-elect Pete Ricketts says he’s honored to be elected governor and says the changes he made from his unsuccessful race for United States Senate in 2006 led him to victory in 2014.

“Couldn’t be more honored that the citizens of Nebraska selected me to lead this state,” Ricketts tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Pete Ricketts made quite a political turn-around.

Ricketts lost badly to Democrat Ben Nelson in 2006, receiving just under 214,000 votes to Nelson’s nearly 380,000.

Despite the loss, Ricketts kept involved in state Republican Party politics. He served as National Committeeman from 2007 to 2012, staying engaged with Nebraska Republicans, listening to Nebraska voters.

Ricketts ditched the Washington, D.C. consultants who advised him in 2006 and, instead, recruited a team with close ties to Nebraska for his 2014 campaign. He pivoted on financing. In 2006, Ricketts used his wealth as a former TD Ameritrade executive to finance the campaign, leading to charges that he was trying to buy the Senate seat. Ricketts also found that soliciting campaign contributions allowed Nebraskans to have a stake in the campaign.

“I also did a lot more listening when I was making my way around the state,” Ricketts says. “I put 64,000 miles on the car, driving around and the ideas that are in my platform were not something I did just sitting in a room by myself. Those were ideas that Nebraskans gave me about what we have to do to grow the state.”

A tough Republican primary forged the campaign. Ricketts says there is no substitute for the experience of winning a tight race. Indeed, Ricketts won a bit more than 57,700 votes or 26.5% of the primary vote in a field of six. Attorney General Jon Bruning finished a close second, receiving 55,500 votes or 25.5%.

As for the transition from one administration to another, Ricketts says he will lean on the experience of Governor Dave Heineman to make it a smooth one.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]