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National Republicans Backing Wealthy Newcomer

It is nice to see the national Repubilcans are backing the rich newcomer here in Nebraska instead of the guys who've invested their lives in the Party. Check out the scandal in the GOP Senate Primary in this new Roll Call article:

Ricketts Is GOP Favorite in Nebraska

September 13, 2005
By David M. Drucker, Roll Call Staff

National Republicans got the candidate they wanted to challenge Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2006, now all Pete Ricketts has to do is win the Republican primary.

The 41-year-old Ameritrade executive, an Omaha resident who has never run for political office, must first defeat 2000 Republican Senate nominee Don Stenberg and former state Republican Party Chairman David Kramer. But if the multimillionaire is successful, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is prepared to play ball on the Plains.

"We will do whatever we can [for Ricketts] behind the scenes," one Washington, D.C.-based Republican official said. "We have been talking to him for quite a while."

Nelson, a moderate, has been friendly to President Bush on several key issues, including tax cuts and judicial nominations. The president recently appeared with Nelson in Omaha, telling a crowd of 11,000 that the Senator "is a man with whom I can work, a person who is willing to put partisanship aside to focus on what's right for America."

But that hasn't stopped the NRSC from lumping him in with prime takeover targets like Democratic Sens. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).

The political dynamics of Nebraska, where Republicans enjoy a 10 percent edge in voter registration and Bush won every county with at least 55 percent in 2004, is simply too attractive to ignore.
"There's just too many votes there," said Republican consultant Doug McAuliffe, who worked for Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) in the 1996 Senate race when he defeated then-Gov. Nelson.

The NRSC nevertheless has struggled to recruit a top-tier candidate. The first choice of national Republicans was then-Gov. Mike Johanns until Bush tapped him to be secretary of Agriculture late last year. Johanns' replacement, acting Gov. Dave Heineman, and Rep. Tm Osborne also turned down NRSC entreaties to run for Senate and are now headed to a showdown in next year's gubernatorial primary.
But given the dynamics of the state, many Republicans still remain optimistic.

"Against a good candidate and a good campaign, [Nelson] can be defeated," said McAuliffe, who currently is working for Ricketts and last year ran the Republican National Committee's independent expenditure media campaign on behalf of the president's re-election. Ricketts believes he is that candidate.

He said he shares the conservative social values of his fellow Nebraskans, supports Bush on Iraq, and believes his lack of political experience is a plus. "I believe it's a benefit that I haven't served before," Ricketts said in a telephone interview. "I'm bringing [private-sector] skills to the table."

Ricketts intends to raise money the old-fashioned way: by soliciting it from others. But he also plans on investing some of his own wealth, though he declined to disclose how much.
Nebraska Democrats recognize the challenge they have in winning statewide races in the staunchly Republican state, even when their candidate is the incumbent.

But they are confident that Nelson will retain his seat, regardless of which candidate wins the Republican primary next May.
"The GOP's recruiting failures have left them to choose from a local party hack, a recycled loser and a virtual unknown whose only qualification seems to be his deep pockets," said Barry Rubin, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. "I think if you line the GOP candidates up next to each other, it looks like they're posing for a carving of Mt. Lose-More."

Nelson, who is highly unlikely to face a challenger in the Democratic primary, has little to say about his potential opponents at present.

"We're planning an aggressive and spirited campaign," said David DiMartino, communications director in Nelson's Senate office. "Ben Nelson has a record to promote, which reflects Nebraska values, and we're going to do that no matter who our opponent is."

In Stenberg, Nelson would face the state's former attorney general who is making his third Senate bid, while in Kramer he would be pitted against a GOP insider and practicing business attorney.

Stenberg dismissed the tacit support Ricketts has received from the NRSC, touting himself as the only candidate with known positions on all major issues and a record of winning statewide races.

"We've had a lot of wealthy candidates run for office here in Nebraska with limited success," Stenberg said. "I think Nebraskans recognize when a rich person is trying to buy an election, and I think they don't like that."

The Kramer campaign believes its key to victory could be a grass-roots effort that is reminiscent of Bush's 2004 re-election strategy. The president's campaign relied on a ground game that included a physical presence in almost every county in America. Kramer campaign manager Sam Fischer, a Bush-Cheney 2004 veteran, said his candidate plans to visit all 93 Nebraska counties, having spent time in 48 of them since June.

"David still believes you meet every voter, one by one, and that's what we intend to do," Fischer said. "We believe we are going to be the candidate that brings positive solutions to energy, the war in Iraq and securing our borders."

A Victory Enterprises poll of 305 likely Republican voters shows Stenberg heading the pack, with 36 percent support, compared to Kramer's 3 percent and Ricketts' 2 percent.

But the poll, conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, had a wide error margin, 5.6 percent, and included former U.S. Navy pilot David Osborn, who has not declared for the race.

Osborn shares the same sounding last name with Congressman Tom Osborne, who is probably the most popular politician in the state. He piloted the Navy reconnaissance plane that crash-landed in China early in Bush's first term.

Victory Enterprises Nebraska Director Jordan McGrain said what Republicans in that state want is someone who they perceive as most able to beat Nelson.

Despite Stenberg's strong showing in his poll, McGrain said Ricketts has a good opportunity to win the primary -- if for no other reason than his personal wealth. The fact that Stenberg lost the 2000 general election weighs heavily on voters' minds, but for now name recognition and public familiarity have propelled him to the top.

The Ricketts family is well known in Omaha and his candidacy has created some excitement there, said McGrain, who is based in the city. But the key to victory is how much support he garners in Osborne's 3rd district, which does not include Omaha but does contain up to 45 percent of the state's population.

Phil Singer, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Democrats are committed to doing whatever is necessary to protect Nelson.
"He is a great Senator, and we stand ready to assist him in any way we can," Singer said.

Copyright 2005

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Anti-Bullying Rally

Carmyn and I drove past the Capitol yesterday and saw over 100 students gathered for the Anti-Bullying Rally. State Senator Gwen Howard was among the featured speakers. Sen. Howard introduced a bill last session the would prohibit verbal or physical bullying because of "race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity and expression, religion, sexual orientation, or a mental physical or sensory handicap or any other distinguishing characteristics."

The Lincoln Journal Star had a nice article Monday about "Nebraska School Bullying Awareness Week." 10/11 News also had a good story in their newscast last night. To see the story, go to kolnkgin.com and scroll down to "Featured Video." There you can click on "Anti-Bullying Rally" to watch the report. The reporter covered the rally, but also spent extra time with a brother and sister who have been the victims of bullying.

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Nebraska Young Democrats and College Democrats Special Elections

This is a guest post from Lee Clausen, who recently served as Chair for the Nebraska Young Democrats and College Democrats Special Elections.

The Nebraska Young Democrats and College Democrats Special Elections were really exciting today.

Congratulations, to Jessica Rathbun the new NYD President!

Jessica has worked really hard as NYD National Committeewoman over the past year and a half and it was great to see her rewarded for her hard work by her election as NYD President. Cody Farrens was elected NYD Vice President. Cody has done an amazing job helping out the UNO College Democrats and will revitalize the energy of Young Democrats to get out and work for our Democratic candidates in 2006.

Congratulations, to Grant Folger of the UNL College Democrats on being elected the new Nebraska College Democrats President. The Nebraska College Democrats will work as a direct link with the Democratic National Committee to bring resources to our college campuses. Kelly Simmons was elected Nebraska College Democrats Vice President. Kelly has been really active as Creighton University President and is an exciting new face in the Nebraska College Democrats organization.

Thank you to Ryan Renner, Meg, Layne and the rest of the UNO College Democrats for hosting the Nebraska Young Democrats and Nebraska College Democrats Special Election. UNO College Democrats have become a shining star in promoting campus activism in Nebraska. Visit www.unodemocrats.com to check out their website and make sure and check out their great blog at "www.unodemocrats.com/blog:http://www.unodemocrats.com/blog.

Thank you to Jeff Leanna, newly elected Young Democrats of America Vice President of Students and Youth, for speaking about how the Young Democrats of America will help Nebraska Young Democrats become more effective in helping our Democratic candidates in 2006. The Young Democrats of America are starting a new initiative called Chapter Revolution and are willing to send national officers to Nebraska for training Nebraska Young Democrats to become better political activists.

Thank you to Janet Stewart for attending the Nebraska Young Democrats and College Democrats Special Elections. It is always great to see those with experience in politics come out and support the youth wing of the Nebraska Democratic Party. The Nebraska Young Democrats and College Democrats need the mentorship of our elected officials, activists and former candidates in order to succeed and maximize the organizations' efforts to help elect our Democratic candidates in 2006.

Thank you to NDP Field Director Ian Russell for attending the special elections and the help of Barry Rubin and the rest of the NDP staff in making them happen. It is great to see the Nebraska Young Democrats working hand-in-hand with the Nebraska Democratic Party under the leadership of our State Chair Steve Achelpohl to help elect our Democratic candidates in 2006.

And as always, a big thank you to Gary DiSilvestro for his interest and leadership with the Nebraska Young Democrats and College Democrats.

It was really fun to serve as special elections chair for the Nebraska Young Democrats and College Democrats and I look forward to helping each organization work to help our Democratic candidates recruit volunteers for the 2006 election cycle.

Lee Clausen.

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Weekend Open Thread

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Tony Ojeda: Please Pray for Him

Once again, the UNO Dems hit the nail on the head with this posting on their blog. Tony Ojeda is running for Nebraska Legislature in District 30. Some of you may know about him from the recent domain name controversy.

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Patriot Day Blood Drive

The American Red Cross is sponsoring their fourth annual Patriot Day Blood Drive at the Holiday Inn Central on Friday, September 9th, from 6:30 am -- 6:30 pm. The goal is to collect 275 units of blood. Visit their website for more information.

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Senator Nelson Wants Gas Prices Investigation

It is good to see our Democratic leadership doing something proactive on an issue that is affecting our pocketbooks everyday: gas prices. Senator Nelson's new bill calling for an investigation into high gas prices is making headlines across the nation. The Senator wants the Federal Trade Commission to spend two weeks studying whether the rise in gas prices is the result of a struggling market or price gouging. You can read about it in the Omaha World Herald, the Grand Island Independent, and the Lincoln Journal Star. The Senator wants the focus of the investigation to be on the weeks leading up to Hurricane Katrina and the additional spike in prices that it supposedly caused.

The Journal Star article also highlights Nelson's critical response to the slow disaster management in the Gulf. The G.I. Independent has an entire separate article in which Nelson questions the effectiveness of FEMA and the Homeland Security Department.

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Spend a Semester in Washington

NDPer Lee Clausen sent us this email about an exciting opportunity for Nebraska's next generation of political leaders. Check out the website to learn more about this once in a lifetime opportunity.


The George Washington University's Native American Political Leadership Program (NAPLP) Scholarship program is an opportunity that creates a limited number of full scholarships for Native American undergraduate students and recent graduates to participate in GWU's Semester In Washington program. The scholarship is the first political leadership development scholarship for Native American students and is funded by the SBC Foundation, the philanthropic arm of SBC Communications Inc.

NAPLP enables qualified Native American students to spend a semester taking classes at George Washington University, complete a professional internship, and interact with national political and policy leaders. The grant will support a series of events on Capitol Hill devoted to policy issues relevant to Native American communities. NAPLP Scholars must confirm their tribal enrollment to be eligible for the scholarship.

The goal of the program is for these students to return to their communities knowing what it takes to form coalitions, pass legislation, win elections, and influence public opinion. They will be better informed about how politics works and more aware of how they can influence the political process to improve their tribal governments and their communities.

Nationwide recruiting of students has begun for the first class of NAPLP. The scholarship covers the full cost of tuition, housing, books, and other expenses. The students selected for the scholarships will join the Semester In Washington class in January, 2006. The Spring 2006 application deadline is October 1, 2005.

For more general information about the program and an application for admission, please visit our website at www.gwu.edu/~siw .

To apply for the NAPLP Scholarship, please visit www.gwu.edu/~siw/naplp.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity--be sure to not pass it up!

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Weekend Open Thread

Regardless of what you may think of Michael Moore (and I am not necessarily endorsing the following commentary), this is worth a quick read. Vacation's Over President Bush

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Poverty Caged Americans in the South

The sad reality about poverty in our country is the most disturbing remnant left behind by Katrina. Hurricane predictions stated that over 100,000 people would be unable to leave New Orleans because they would not have the means to do so. Yesterday on a conservative radio show, I heard a caller say the government is not responsible for helping the impoverished people now dislocated by the devastation. He said the government has been hurting those people for years by giving them hand-outs. I was absolutely outraged by the detached attitude of the man and the agreement from the show's host. Their ideologies blind their compassion, and more seriously, blind them from acknowledging the basic realities of poverty and its causes.

There are a lot of fingers that can be pointed as to what led to New Orleans becoming a No Man's Land. New Orleans's Mayor has the right to be so enraged by the slow government response time that he is now swearing in interviews. I have been watching a lot of the news coverage and I think the press is doing a pretty good job so far of raising questions about preparedness and the President's reaction. I suspect these events will further hurt his approval rating.

But as Democrats we must not exert all our energy on the preparedness mistakes of our opponents. We are Democrats because fundamentally we believe all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The basic necessity of "life" has been trampled upon, and the stampede started long before Katrina made landfall.

Our job as Democrats, the Party of Progress and the Party of the People, is to work for a better future for all Americans. Our job is to provide hope and empowerment for the poor so that together we give everyone the means of getting themselves out of harms way when their lives are threatened. The poor of the South have been denied the right to life and their futures hang in the balance. Saving their lives goes beyond airlifting them off roofs. We cannot leave them to wonder Texas, spirits broken by being treated as second-class citizens by their government's relief efforts.

This is our chance to convince Americans that poverty is a real issue, impacting real families, and that poverty is a cage that traps Americans not only from finding confidence and hope, but from being able to save their children from a forecasted disaster.

I encourage everyone to write letters to the editor of your papers, not simply attacking President Bush, but encouraging social change that can prevent so many people from falling into poverty. President Clinton says 30 percent of New Orleans's population was below the poverty line. This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report on poverty, and the numbers are growing. You can find more information on report in the Talking Points section of this site or by checking out this article.

Remember why we are Democrats. We believe in the basic rights of every person as designed by our Creator and laid out by our Founding Fathers. As Americans we believe in helping families victimized by circumstances, whether they were working in the World Trade Center or living in a bayou in Louisiana.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are many ways you can donate to the relief effort. Here is a link to a list of legitimate agencies including the American Red Cross.

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