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On the Road - Sarpy County

Last night Amanda and I met with the Sarpy County Democrats.

Burke Summers, the County Chair, has been doing great things in Sarpy County and has really turned the party around from a "social club" to an active membership where almost 30 people turned out for the meeting.

Burke gave updates on events in the party and in the labor movement. Amanda and I spoke about what the party is doing and about our upcoming training in Scottsbluff on Saturday. There is still space to attend -- you can RSVP here

We heard from people interested in running for local offices in Sarpy County and about some tasks the party is going to undertake in the coming months. It is great to see such an interest from people of all backgrounds, ages, and professions.

Thanks again to Sarpy County for inviting us to your meeting!

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2004 NDP JFK Award Winner Mark Martinez Honored

2004 NDP JFK Award Winner Mark Martinez Honored.

Mark was honored recently by the Mexican American Commission as Hispanic Man of the Year for his dedication and service to the Latino Community. He has served many organizations including St. Stanislaus Catholic Grade School, the Chicano Awareness Center, the Omaha South High School Curriculum Accreditation Advisory Committee and the Latino Police Officers Association.

Mark will be speaking at the Hispanic Democrats Open House on September 27th at 5:30pm in Omaha. You can RSVP for the event here

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Hagel Makes a Stink, While Nelson Gets Work Done

Chuck Hagel made a big stink today about opposing Senator Nelson's legislation stopping the U.S. from importing Japanese beef. What happened when the vote went to the floor? Hagel was one of only 26 Senators to vote against it. Nelson's amendment passed with a large bi-partisan margin of 72-26.

Of course, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns isn't too fond of the legislation either. He wants to ease the ban on Japanese beef even though the Japanese still refuse to import American beef. Nelson's amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill will stop Johanns from spending money on efforts to resume imports of beef from Japan.

Once again, it's nice to see who actually stands up for Nebraskans on issues important to our economy.

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What Will You Fight For?

This message is from an email our State Chairman, Steve Achelpohl sent earlier this morning.

Dear Nebraska Democrat,

Democrats have a long and proud history in Nebraska--but these days people call our home a "red" state. Pundits and Republicans say that what we do doesn't matter, that Nebraskans don't want a choice. They think what we stand for doesn't count.

It's up to us to prove them wrong.

Our 93 County Strategy brings people together to build a powerful statewide organization. Each of us has to contribute to the goals and ideals that we stand for--not just the mechanism for achieving them.

Every Nebraska Democrat needs to be clear about what we're fighting for. Where do you want to take our state? What drives you to keep fighting for the Democratic Party, our candidates and our values? Why are you a Nebraska Democrat?

I want your answer:

We're going to create a permanent archive of these statements so that every Nebraskan knows exactly what we stand for and what we want for our state and our country.

This week, I'm going to put my own answer up on our website and we will be adding others daily. Going forward, we'll be showcasing statements from Democratic leaders and everyday Democrats across the state.

Take a moment and join them now with why you are Nebraska Democrat:

We're building a testament of purpose by candidates, volunteers and new voters that will make clear to everyone what Nebraska Democrats are fighting for.

We must stand for our common values--not only against someone else's. We will bring a positive message to everyone in Nebraska--and offer the inspiration and leadership our state sorely needs.

You're a part of it, and I ask and hope that you speak up now to tell the world why:

Together we're going to win--and we're going to win with pride.

Best Wishes,

Steve Achelpohl
Chairman, Nebraska Democratic Party

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Student Rep Rips Into Hergert

UNL Young Democrats President and ASUN Senator Matt Schaefer took his displeasure directly to the source on Friday: Regent Dave Hergert. Schaefer recently proposed a resolution unanimously passed by the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska asking Hergert to step down. At Friday's Board of Regents meeting, Schaefer had harsh words for Hergert, who still refuses to resign.

To read more about this young Democratic leader and his confrontation with Hergert, check out these articles in the Daily Nebraskan and the Lincoln Journal Star.

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Open Thread

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is--to be prepared" -- George W. Bush

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I Voted Against the Funding Before I Voted for it...

"Meth abuse is an immense problem in Nebraska and puts a severe strain on federal and local law enforcement. It is critical that Nebraska law enforcement officials have the resources they need to effectively fight drug abuse and crime." -- Senator Chuck Hagel, press release, Hagel website, 9.15.05

The last time Hagel had a chance to vote on funding for law enforcement to fight Meth he voted AGAINST it.

Maybe Weekday Hagel got confused with Sunday Hagel

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Republican Roadblock

Wednesday, the Senate voted against creating an independent commission to investigate the government response to Hurricane Katrina. Senator Nelson voted for the commission, while Chuck Hagel contradicted himself and voted with his party to put a stop to it.

Hagel said last week: "It may require an outside commission to not only do it right, but to assure that Americans trust the results and the recommendations." [Omaha World Herald, September 9, 2005]

But of course, when a Democrat proposed the creation of a commission, he was suddenly against the idea.

This Republican roadblock is wasting time. Republicans are playing partisan politics just as they did with the formation of the 9/11 Commission. As the Omaha World Herald reports, 70-percent of the American people want an independent commission, so sooner or later, it will probably be formed. The truth will come out.

How long do you think it will take before an independent commission is finally authorized?

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What Else Should Bush Take Responsibility For?

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong. I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm. And that's a very important question. And it's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and--so that we can better respond."

What do you think of Bush's admission of responsibility? What else would you like to see him take responsibility for?

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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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