Nebraska Republicans must defend major political offices this year and a party official says they understand what is at stake.
This is the second of our two-part series.
Nebraska Republican Party Executive Director Kenny Zoeller credits Gov. Pete Ricketts and Republicans in the Unicameral for balancing the state budget during a difficult year, without raising taxes.
“Nebraska’s a high-tax state and what we hear time and time again is that Nebraskans cannot afford one more dollar sent to state government, because of our high taxes,” Zoeller tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Zoeller says reining-in state spending and having state government live within its means is a huge victory.
Ricketts faces a determined opponent as he runs for re-election. State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha left the Republican Party to become an independent, eventually deciding to become a Democrat. Zoeller believes Ricketts will win re-election, despite the vigorous campaign Krist has launched.
The other huge battle pits United States Sen. Deb Fischer against Democrat Jane Raybould, the Lincoln City Councilmember.
Raybould hopes to tap into the enthusiasm Democrats have demonstrated across the country in opposition to President Donald Trump to upset Fischer this November and deny her a second term. Zoeller, though, says he doesn’t see the widespread dissatisfaction among voters which normally leads to an incumbent to losing her seat.
A key race for Republicans might well center in Omaha as freshman Congressman Don Bacon runs for re-election for the first time, the re-election bid in which the incumbent is traditionally most vulnerable.
Zoeller contends the race in the Second Congressional District couldn’t demonstrate bigger differences. In fact, Zoeller says the race poses the starkest choice between two candidates in Nebraska history.
Democrats nominated non-profit executive Kara Eastman, a candidate who embraces more of the Bernie Sanders-wing of the party than that loyal to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Zoeller says he expected a re-match between the more moderate Brad Ashford and Bacon.
Still, Zoeller expects Bacon to win re-election, in part, because of his connection with youth.
“He’s been so helpful for us in terms of giving a jolt to our youth movement in Omaha and I think that’s going to pay dividends in November,” Zoeller says.
Zoeller expects Republican incumbents Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith to win re-election.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]