Nebraska politicians debate impact of tumultuous convention on state GOP | Regional government

Saturday’s unrest at Nebraska’s Republican Party convention drew differing reactions from the state’s political leaders, with Republicans claiming to be unfazed and Democrats suggesting the GOP discord presents them with an opportunity.

At the GOP convention, delegates fired party chairman Dan Welch by majority vote. A wave of resignations immediately followed his dismissal, including that of executive director Taylor Gage and national committee member Lydia Brasch.

Explanations for the upheaval differed. Some local Republicans, for example, felt they had been shut out by the party establishment led by Gov. Pete Ricketts. Some have also complained that the state party leadership unfairly chose sides in the Republican gubernatorial primary to favor eventual winner Jim Pillen.

Ricketts, who backed Pillen in the primary, offered a much simpler explanation when asked about the convention on Monday: that a group of ‘new people’ entered the party and wanted a change in leadership. . He said the group followed proper procedure in making these changes, and he looks forward to seeing what the new chair, Lancaster County GOP Chairman Eric Underwood, does.

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“That’s how the Republican Party is run,” Ricketts said. “It’s run by the people who show up.”

Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said Ricketts and other Republicans might try to play down Saturday’s events, but she believes Ricketts was a big reason for the unrest.

Division has been growing within the Nebraska GOP for at least a year, Kleeb said, with growing frustration among rural counties against the party establishment. Tensions rose after Ricketts donated more than $1 million in the primary to conservative Nebraska, a group that ran attack ads against Pillen’s main Republican opponents, Charles Herbster and the senator. State Brett Lindstrom of Omaha.

Herbster declined to comment on the convention Monday. Several other Republicans did not respond to requests for comment, including Pillen, Underwood, Gage, newly elected U.S. Representative Mike Flood and former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.

Ricketts has always been the Nebraska GOP’s largest donor. In the past year alone, Ricketts and his family have donated $560,000 to the Nebraska Republican Party, according to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

Kleeb said she expects Ricketts to shift to independent spending by political action committees or individual candidates in the future, rather than directly to the party. Ricketts, however, said he would support Underwood as the new president.

Kleeb also said GOP leadership changes would destabilize the party in a way that could weaken Republicans’ chances in the November general election. She said Republicans will have to spend the summer reorganizing rather than supporting party candidates.

“They lost their footing,” Kleeb said.

And she suggested that moderate Republicans and independent voters might view the party as becoming too extreme. Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, a Democrat running against Flood for the congressional seat, said she’s heard from several GOP voters who no longer feel included in the party and plan to change their registration.

“Sometimes the party leaves you,” said Pansing Brooks, herself a former Republican.

Despite these Democratic hopes, Republicans still hold a dominant position in Nebraska politics. They have a 49% to 28% lead in voter registration over Democrats and hold numerous federal, state and local offices. For example, Republicans have not lost a race for governor of Nebraska since 1994 and represent all five members of Congress from Nebraska.

Welch, as he left the convention center on Saturday just before his official firing, expressed confidence that the Nebraska Republican Party would remain strong through restructuring. However, he said he suspected the recovery would “take a bit of time”.

“I hope the party won’t suffer from this,” Welch said.

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