Can Nebraska Democrats turn activism into election victories in 2018?
This wraps up our five-part series produced by Nebraska Radio Network in collaboration with HuffPost.
Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb understands what’s at stake in 2018.
“You know, 2018 is going to be a big year for us to prove that we can win races again, both statewide and down ballot,” Kleeb tells Nebraska Radio Network and HuffPost in an interview at the Nebraska Democratic Party headquarters in Lincoln.
Kleeb insists the party has held its own in the officially non-partisan Unicameral, winning its fair share of legislative seats. She believes the party has a good chance at reclaiming the Second Congressional District seat Republican Don Bacon narrowly took in a race with incumbent Democrat Brad Ashford in 2016. Ashford will have to win the primary to set up a rematch.
Kleeb even says U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer is vulnerable in her re-election bid next year, siting primarily her support of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose advocacy of alternatives to public schools could impact how Nebraska voters view Fischer.
Nebraska Republican Party national committeeman and former party chair, J.L. Spray, doesn’t seemed worried about 2018. As for the initial thrust of this series, Spray brushes aside suggestions the grassroots campaign against Keystone XL will play a factor in the elections. Spray appears confident about continued Republican success at the polls next year.
But what might worry Spray about 2018?
“We rely on the folks who have voted traditional Republican all their lives, but it’s the ones who are coming into the system that we want to attract,” Spray tells Nebraska Radio Network and HuffPost. “When you say, what do I worry about? I worry about what we’re doing with our young folks.”
Nebraska Democrats, it seems, have many more worries and it starts at the top, according to University of Nebraska – Omaha political science professor Paul Landow.
Landow, a former Nebraska Democratic Party executive director, says the policies of the Democratic National Committee hurt Democrats at the polls in Nebraska.
“Nebraskans are incompatible with the current Democratic platform and its politicians,” Landow states simply during an interview.
Kleeb disagrees and hopes to energize a party which hasn’t won statewide since Ben Nelson won re-election to the United States Senate seat in 2006.
“Despite all the obstacles in our path as a small party in a red state, I’m very optimistic that we are going to win elections in 2018.”
Eliot Nelson of HuffPost contributed to this article.
Click here for part one: Will fight against Keystone XL lead to victories for Democrats in 2018?
Click here for part two: Omaha political rally reveals split among Nebraska Democrats.
Click here for part three: Is a Nebraska Democrat a different type of Democrat?
Click here for part four: Is Jane Kleeb the right leader for Nebraska Democrats?
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:08]