With Nebraska’s 3rd District House scrap emerging as an unlikely congressional battleground race, national party and special interest resources flowed Tuesday into the fray.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of new TV ads are either up or on the way.
Meanwhile, state party attention has turned west.
The Nebraska Democratic Party, which has been focused on Sen. Ben Nelson’s re-election campaign, purchased $25,000 in radio ads for Scott Kleeb, according to a filing Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.
The spotlight in Nebraska’s 2006 election swung from the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial battles to the House contest between Kleeb and Adrian Smith in the wake of polls last week pointing to a tight race.
The Republican Party and the anti-tax Club for Growth rushed new TV resources into the struggle in an attempt to derail Kleeb, whose fast-closing momentum has brought him to the doorstep of possibly winning the first Democratic congressional victory in western Nebraska in 48 years.
Kleeb has responded to the attack ads with a new TV commercial of his own. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee weighed in with an attack ad aimed at Smith.
“It’s hard to imagine the voters in that district would elect liberal Scott Kleeb to Congress,” said Alex Burgos, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington.
But in the volatile political atmosphere of 2006, he said, “we take nothing for granted.”
Kleeb’s values are “more in line with the liberal northeast that he parachuted in from than with Nebraska’s 3rd District,” Burgos said.
Before returning to the McGinn Ranch in Custer County where he works as a ranch hand, Kleeb earned two post-graduate degrees at Yale.
Several telephone calls to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee were not returned.
The attack ads aimed at Kleeb paint him as “too liberal for Nebraska,” a latecomer who has lived in the state only sporadically.
“If he had his way, your taxes would go up,” one TV ad states.
Kleeb, the ad suggests, would bring back the so-called marriage tax penalty, cut the child tax credit in half and “even have you once again pay the death tax.”
“But what can you expect from someone who never voted here until he started running for Congress?” the ad states.
Ben Lumpkin, spokesman for the Kleeb campaign, said the truth is Kleeb would not vote to reinstate the marriage tax penalty nor cut the child tax credit in half. And, Lumpkin said, he supports “exemptions to protect Nebraska farmers, ranchers and small businesses” from the federal estate tax.
In his commercial responding to another attack ad focused on social issues, Kleeb states: “It is always disappointing when politicians resort to misleading negative ads.”
The truth is he has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, opposes abortion, opposes same-sex marriage and opposes illegal immigration, the Kleeb ad states.
The Democratic attack ad says Smith is “putting special interests ahead of our families” when he accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign support from the Club for Growth.
That organization opposes ethanol incentives and family farm supports while supporting privatization of Social Security, the ad states.
In accepting that support, Smith is “putting our farms and families last,” the commercial says.
Smith has said he’d support a safety-net support program for family farmers in spite of the Club for Growth’s position.
Kleeb campaigned in Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings on Tuesday. Smith, a two-term state senator from Gering, was endorsed by 15 current and former state senators at a news conference in Grand Island.
Reach Don Walton at 473-7248 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.