Tag Archives: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

Nebraska, West Virginia Primaries

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2016 — Though the presidential nomination contests are virtually over, voters are still streaming to the polls for nine Republican and 13 Democratic intra-party elections. Now that we are progressing further into the election cycle more states include down ballot races along with the presidential contest. That was the case in Nebraska and West Virginia yesterday. Though Hillary Clinton remains the presumed Democratic nominee, she lost yet another primary. It was expected she would fall in West Virginia after coming out earlier for shutting down the coal industry. True to form, Bernie Sanders beat her 51-36 percent. She did manage to place first in the Nebraska primary, a beauty contest for Democrats since the delegates were apportioned weeks ago.

Nebraska

It was interesting to see how presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump fared in Nebraska, capturing 60 percent of the vote. Original projections slated this state for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and with it 36 winner-take-all Cornhusker delegates. Trump now wins, but the percentage is worth noting. The Midwest and Rocky Mountain region has been Cruz’s strongest territory, in addition to his home state of Texas, which is one reason Trump’s Indiana victory last week became so significant. The changing regional political winds in a state originally thought certain to go to Cruz helped end the race.

With many Republican establishment leaders publicly eschewing Trump’s candidacy, it doesn’t appear these actions hurt the future nominee and may actually have helped reinforce his independent, anti-establishment persona.

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Chafee Changes in RI; Fortenberry Stays in Nebraska

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has come full circle. The son of former governor and senator John Chafee (R), Lincoln, then the Republican mayor of Warwick, RI, was appointed to the US Senate succeeding his late father in 1999. He then won election to a full term in 2000, but began straying further and further to the left through the first six years of the George W. Bush administration.

In the anti-Republican year of 2006, Sen. Chafee was turned out of office in this most Democratic of states at the hands of former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Embittered by his defeat and some Bush Administration policy directives such as the Iraq War, Chafee left the Republican Party and became an Independent. Returning to run in a three-way race for the open governor’s seat in 2010, Chafee made his comeback successful, becoming the only Independent elected to a gubernatorial post in that particular election year.

Yesterday, Gov. Chafee completed his conversion to the Democratic Party by officially registering as a member. He did this for purely political reasons, thinking the action would bolster his desperate re-election chances. Chafee’s approval ratings are arguably the worst in the nation. Nate Sliver’s 538 website (May 28 data table) recently gathered job approval scores for 41 governors who are measured in 2013 public polling data. Of the 41, Gov. Chafee placed dead last, scoring a miserable 26:69 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Chafee has never been known as one who executes brilliant political moves, and this action may actually make his re-election even more difficult. The first primary election before the new electorate is always the most tenuous for a party-switcher and already two major Democratic office holders appear poised to enter the gubernatorial campaign. It is unlikely that Chafee now joining the Democratic Party will dissuade either state Treasurer Gina Raimondo or Providence Mayor Angel Taveras from running against him.
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Nebraska’s Heineman Won’t Run

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced over the holiday weekend that he will not run for his state’s open US Senate seat next year, ending more than 13 weeks of political speculation concerning his decision. Heineman said he believed a campaign would take away from serving his final 18 months as governor but, at least at one point, claimed he was very close to becoming a federal candidate.

Heineman’s decision now opens up what should be a fierce campaign to replace one-term Sen. Mike Johanns (R), a former governor and US Agriculture Secretary, who decided not to seek re-election. All potential candidates had been awaiting Heineman’s decision, because his popularity is such that no person in either party is likely to defeat him.

The Democrats are in the more precarious position because they are now staring at two open statewide races with a depleted political bench. Former two-term senator and governor Bob Kerrey returned to the state last year and went down to an ignominious 58-42 percent defeat at the hands of then state senator Deb Fischer (R). The result left the Democrats in a politically moribund state as Kerrey was always viewed as the party’s best possible standard bearer. For him to lose as badly as he did to a state legislator in what should have been a strong Democratic year, casts major doubt over the party’s 2014 prospects.

That being said, the Democrats will likely concentrate on the open gubernatorial campaign, a position more important to party leaders. Heineman, who will be the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (10 years at the end of his term), is ineligible to seek re-election. At this point, the Democrats’ strongest candidate may be Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. He will likely run statewide, but probably as a gubernatorial candidate, thus by-passing the Senate contest. Beyond Beutler, their options are few.
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Nebraska Sen. Johanns to Retire

In a surprising announcement, first-term Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R), announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year. Johanns, a former US Agriculture Secretary, two-term Nebraska governor, mayor, and county commissioner was elected to the Senate in 2008, defeating rancher Scott Kleeb 58-40 percent.

Sen. Johanns appeared to be a lock for a second term, but says he and his wife’s desire to return to “a quieter life” after what will be 32 years in public office at the end of this Congress is what drives his decision.

The seat should easily remain in Republican hands because the Democrats have a weak political bench in the Cornhusker State. With their best possible candidate, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, losing badly to freshman Sen. Deb Fischer (42-58 percent) last November in what was a clear Democratic year nationally, the party leaders and candidates will have a difficult time reaching the realm of competitiveness in 2014.

On the Republican side, the early speculation surrounds popular term-limited Gov. Dave Heineman. Clearly, he would be the party’s strongest candidate should he make the run.

If the governor takes a pass on the race, then look for one or more of the state’s three congressmen to take the leap. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE-3) are more likely to run than 2nd District Rep. Lee Terry (R). Terry, just appointed chairman of the House Sub-Committee (of Energy & Commerce) on Commerce, Manufacturing, & Trade, may  Continue reading >