State Republican officials gathered this morning at a “unity” press conference, where they vowed to come together after a rugged primary campaign among three of the state’s most prominent Republicans.
Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Treasurer Don Stenberg stood behind state Sen. Deb Fischer as she accepted kudos for her big upset Tuesday night in the U.S. Senate primary and vowed to defeat Democrat Bob Kerrey in November
Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson acknowledged the rough campaign, but said primary battles prepare candidates for the bigger battle ahead.
“Republicans believe that competition is a good thing; it makes us better,” he said.
GOP headquarters was filled with public and party officials such as Speaker Mike Flood, who supported Bruning. Also there: national committeeman Pete Ricketts, whose father bankrolled a last-minute blitz of TV ads blasting Bruning and boosting Fischer. And there was Gov. Dave Heineman, who didn’t endorse anyone.
Heineman said he didn’t endorse a candidate in the U.S. Senate race because Stenberg, Bruning and Fischer are “three very good friends” and he wanted to be in a position to unite the candidates and party “so we can go forward to defeat Bob Kerrey in November.”
Bruning and Fischer both looked bleary-eyed and even teary-eyed at times during the press conference – with Bruning looking off to the side during most of the press conference, avoiding eye contact with the roomful of observers and reporters. He and Fischer embraced at one point. Asked what he thought of the election results, he declined to comment, saying everything was water under the bridge and “This is Deb’s day.”
“I’m 100 percent behind her,” Bruning said. “This is about how we can get together and beat Bob Kerrey.”
Fischer credited Bruning for being a tough campaigner whom she looks forward to campaigning with and credited Stenberg for being a public servant for many years.
“He serves his state with his heart and his soul,” she said.
The governor thanked Bruning and Stenberg, saying, “This isn’t easy; every one of us is in a race (because) we want to win.”
But he credited Fischer for winning 77 of 93 counties and said having worked with her for eight years, he knows she’s “strong, tough and effective.” And then he went into campaign mode, saying, “She has Nebraska values, not New York values.”
He laid out some of the distinctions between Fischer and Kerrey that voters are sure to hear a lot about in the next six months: Fischer is pro-life and believes in a balanced budget, lower taxes, repealing Obamacare and that “marriage is between a man and woman.”
“New York doesn’t need a third United States senator,” Heineman said. “Nebraska needs a second United States senator who shares our Nebraska values.”
Sounds like a campaign slogan – and Fischer echoed it, saying, “I’m a Nebraskan. My sons are Nebraskans. … I live in the state of Nebraska, Bob Kerrey doesn’t, to my knowledge.”
While outside political action committees spent about $2 million promoting Stenberg and bashing Bruning – which some believe helped Fischer defeat Bruning – she said the 40,000 miles she’s put on her car traveling the state had a lot to do with her come-from-behind win.
“I think I won because I connected with Nebraskans,” she said. “What really won this race, I firmly believe, is the support I had across the state from thousands of volunteers.”
While Kerrey is framing himself as a person who will cross the aisle and work with Republicans, Fischer said she’s used to doing that in the nonpartisan Unicameral Legislature, where you have to build consensus, but she said, “I do not compromise on my principles.”
Asked if she was prepared for negative attacks and a race that will be in the national spotlight as control of Congress hangs in the balance, Fischer asked the reporter if he would have asked a male candidate that same question.
“Yes, I am tough enough,” she said. Ask Speaker Flood, she said, before he replied from the back of the room, “That is true.”
Reported by Deena Winter, email@example.com.
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