Nebraska Democrats Struggle With Reputation Of ‘Waste Bins’

Nebraska Democrats Struggle With Reputation Of 'Waste Bins'

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – It has never been easy to be a Democrat in Nebraska, but it’s somehow getting harder.

The 29% of Nebraska voters registered as Democrats are the smallest in at least 50 years, and that is only an indication of the party’s problems.

Last week, the party urged the United States Senate candidate to step down after admitting to sending sexually offensive text messages to a campaign worker and its candidate in a largely nationwide congressional district, dropping the party so that he could use the ‘legal marijuana now’ ‚ÄĚTicket. That followed a recent Democratic candidate for governor who endorsed the Republican in the state’s only competitive US House district.

The local chapter of the Republican Party in Omaha said the blunt in a recent tweet, “Nebraska Dems have a dumpster in their hands.”

Or, as Paul Landow, former director of the Democratic Party of Nebraska, noted, “If a Democrat wants to win a state government, something really crazy has to happen.”

It was not always like that.

Although Lyndon B. Johnson was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win Nebraska in 1964, the members of the party were once competitive. Democrat Bob Kerrey was elected governor and U.S. Senate in the 1980s and 90s, and Ben Nelson served two terms as governor in the 1990s and was elected twice to the United States Senate. And in 2008, Presidential candidate Barack Obama won in an Omaha-based congressional district, earning a single Electoral College vote under Nebraska’s unusual system.

But more than a decade has passed since a Democrat won statewide elections, and Republican nominees aren’t even seriously challenged now.

Even some Republicans are complaining about the situation.

“It is better to have competitive races in both the primary and general elections,” said JL Spray, a GOP member of the national committee and former chairman of the state party. “The voters must have a choice.”

Democrats say their main problem is a lack of money, and they claim that the national party is changing states like Nebraska in a short time in favor of states that are considered more competitive in presidential politics.

Jane Kleeb, the president of the state party, noted that when Howard Dean was the president of the Democratic Party, the national committee had a 50-state strategy that guaranteed every state party at least $ 25,000 a month, regardless of its size. That period from 2005 to 2009 coincided with Nelson’s re-election to the United States Senate and the victory of Obama’s Electoral College.

Later, Kleeb said the party cut Nebraska’s monthly share to $ 2,500 a month before increasing it again to $ 10,000. But by then she had said that the party had given up too much ground to the Republicans and had become disconnected from the country’s voters, who tend to outgrow those in Omaha and Lincoln.

“We need to restore relations with voters who feel that the party has turned their back on them,” said Kleeb, who published a book this year on how Democrats could win in rural America. “Rural voters saw our faces and heard our voices, and those years are now over.”

Kleeb said she is focused on rebuilding the party and trying to recruit strong candidates, although many are reluctant to jump into races with great odds.

As the general election approaches, Democrats face many challenges, starting with the attempt to relieve Republican Senator Ben Sasse.

Democratic nominee Chris Janicek has always been a long distance, but after a staff member revealed he sent her text messages asking if his campaign should spend money to ‘let her fuck’, the party asked him to stop . Janicek has refused to stop down, and under state law, the party cannot force him to vote without his consent.

Unless a replacement is found, no Democrat is listed in the 3rd congressional district. Nominee Mark Elworth Jr. had been the nominee, but chose to run as a candidate for a marijuana party.

In the typically competitive 2nd district, it’s unclear how much it will harm Democrat Kara Eastman that the 2018 party candidate for the governor endorsed Republican incumbent Don Bacon.

Democrats who won in Nebraska said they are amazed at how dramatically the state’s political climate has changed.

When Kerrey, a decorated Navy SEAL, returned to Nebraska in 2012 to run to his old seat in the United States Senate, Republicans labeled him an out-of-the-box carpet bag because he lived in New York. Kerrey lost in a landslide to Republican Deb Fischer, a farmer and senator.

“When I ran in 2012, there was almost no party,” Kerrey said. “You’re from Omaha and Lincoln, and finding a chosen Democrat is like chasing a unicorn.”

The problem, Kerrey said, is about ideology as well as money and reflects a left wing movement of the national democratic party.

“If your conclusions about social and economic policies are in the minority, then you will be in the minority,” Kerrey said.

Even in the past, Democrats usually lost unless faced with unpopular incumbent administrators, said Kim Robak, a Democratic Lieutenant Governor under Nelson. Robak said Nelson was able to impeach then-Republican Governor Kay Orr, in large part because Orr approved a tax package that some voters considered a tax hike.

“Since then, Republicans have become a lot more cautious,” she said.

Nebraska Democrats fared slightly better in local elections and the non-partisan legislature, but they are still relegated to the minority.

Democrats thought they might have a winning candidate in Jane Raybould, a moderate Lincoln businesswoman and city councilor who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Raybould launched her campaign in the heat of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and outlined a pro-trade agenda as farmers struggled financially.

Still, Fischer achieved re-election with nearly 58% of the vote in a year when victories elsewhere allowed Democrats to take control of the House.

Raybould said raising money was difficult because the state party’s donor base is so small, and out-of-state donors consider any race in Nebraska to be uninvitable. Equally persuading voters to consider a Democrat.

“It is really challenging to work as a statewide democrat,” she said. “You already have a huge voter backlog. You are already facing a tough battle.”

___

This story has been updated to correct the first reference to the spelling of Bob Kerrey’s last name, from Kerry.

____

Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

.