Ted Nugent

Musician and gun rights activist Ted Nugent addresses a seminar at the National Rifle Association's convention in May 2011 in Pittsburgh. Nugent met with the Secret Service on Thursday to explain his raucous remarks about what he called Barack Obama’s "evil, America-hating administration” -- comments that some critics interpreted as a threat against the president. (AP file photo)

AP file photo

Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash still will host a private, invitation-only reception with controversial rocker Ted Nugent, but "no one in attendance is under any obligation to support my campaign," he said in a news release Monday.

Coash, who is up for re-election in District 27, has been criticized for the May 10 event after Nugent made controversial remarks about President Barack Obama last month.

"If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year ... " Nugent said April 14. "We are patriots; we are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November."

Coash's campaign previously was selling tickets for $100 to hear a talk by Nugent about hunting rights, deer hunting and archery and $500 for a meet-and-greet with the Motor City Madman.

"I am no longer asking Ted to speak in a public way on my behalf, but to instead engage personally with his fans who want to meet him," Coash said in the news release. "While I am hosting this private event, no one in attendance is under any obligation to support my campaign."

Nugent performs in Council Bluffs, Iowa, after the event.

Kyle Michaelis, who is running against Coash in District 27, previously called on Coash to denounce Nugent's "hateful political rhetoric."

"If Ted Nugent's political beliefs and extremist rhetoric represents Sen. Coash, he shouldn't cancel this fundraiser and get every dollar he can, because he'll need it after Lincoln voters see what he really stands for," Michaelis said Monday.

Coash's campaign had more than $65,000 on hand April 10. Michaelis reported about $4,800, according to state campaign finance reports.

While Coash said he respects others' opinions, he decided to move forward with the private event.

"I don't always agree with Ted Nugent, but I enjoy bringing people together from differing perspectives to get the job done for Nebraska," he said Monday. "I look forward to talking with his fans about the issues important to them."

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Coash didn't want to get into specifics about what he disagrees with Nugent about but said he does agree with Nugent's pro-hunting and gun rights stances.

Nugent, a public gun supporter, made the controversial remarks at the National Rifle Association's annual conference in St. Louis, drawing the attention of Secret Service agents who later interviewed him.

"He's a free-speech guy. And so am I," Coash said after Nugent's remarks. "I don't agree with everything he says, but I support his right to say it."

Coash's grandfather owned a bowstring factory in Bassett that did business with Nugent, a longtime bow hunter.

He said it's regrettable the Nugent appearance has drawn attention away from issues and his work in the Legislature.

"I'm still focused on sharing my accomplishments and future goals for my next term," Coash said. "This is just one event that unfortunately has been a distraction from my message."

​Reach Jordan Pascale at 402-473-7120, jpascale@journalstar.com or follow him @LJSPascale.

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