Gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist switched party affiliation from Republican to Democrat Monday morning, bringing a sharp rebuke from Nebraska Republican Party officials.
“Now, this comes to no surprise to any Republicans, to any conservatives across the state of Nebraska. Sen. Krist has had a liberal voting record within the legislature,” according to Nebraska Republican Party Executive Director Kenny Zoeller who spoke to reporters during a news conference Monday afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda.
Election officials in Douglas County confirmed Krist changed his voter registration from Republican to Democrat. Krist previously had announced he would run for governor either as an independent or as a third-party candidate.
Nebraska Republican Party National Committeeman J. L. Spray speculated as to why Krist appears to have dropped his bid as an independent candidate to run as a Democrat.
“One, to get attention,” Spray said. “Two, probably his lawyer advised him that his lawsuit wasn’t going to be successful. Three, the guy’s desperate for attention and to get on the ballot.”
Krist earlier announced a constitutional challenge to a new state law making it difficult to run as an independent.
Spray and Zoeller claimed to have no worries that Gov. Pete Ricketts will win re-election in November. Yet, the two criticized Krist for his allegedly liberal voting record, which they say includes opposition to tax cuts and support for Planned Parenthood. Republicans also point out Krist has opposed efforts to restrict public benefits to illegal immigrants and voted to repeal the death penalty.
Krist, a former Air Force pilot, was appointed a state senator in 2009 by former Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican. Krist won election to the officially non-partisan Unicameral in 2010. Krist was re-elected in 2014. He was registered as a Republican.
Nebraska Radio Network contacted the Krist campaign, seeking comment for this story and was declined an interview.
The campaign did release this statement:
“Voters are fed up with this kind of constant partisan politics from Governor Ricketts and his Party Bosses that divide us rather than unite us. I pledge to bring all of us together and to focus on unity and problem-solving, not ideology to move our great state forward.”
The Krist campaign does have a news conference with Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]