Jane Raybould gives Nebraska Democrats a credible candidate to challenge Deb Fischer in next year's Senate race.

Fischer still will be the overwhelming betting-man's favorite to chalk up the GOP's fourth straight Senate victory, but Democrats will have a legitimate voice to make the case for the other side, assuring Nebraskans that they can hear both sides of the national debate.

Fischer has organization, money, name recognition and is positioned to gain media coverage whenever she wants. She's a member of the inner circle in the Republican-controlled Senate with a seat on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's leadership team.

A fundraiser in Kentucky over the weekend raised campaign funds for Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and Fischer, according to media reports. Flake and Heller face substantial primary challenges. 

Federal Election Commission reports show Fischer raised more than $1 million during the first six months of this year and had $1.8 million in the bank entering July.

So, for lots of reasons, it's uphill for Raybould, a familiar trajectory for Democrats in Nebraska, particularly if they are running statewide.

But there are plenty of issues to explore in next year's Senate race: health care policy, the future of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, the availability of Medicaid, tax reform policy, budget policy and priorities, environmental policy, immigration, infrastructure, on and on.

Military and defense policy is rising toward the top of the list in a dangerous world that may be in even more peril with unpredictable leaders threatening one another in Dr. Strangelove fashion, Russia in an expansionist mood and China inevitably rising.

Fischer is positioned to be part of the debate and part of the answer as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  So wrap all of that into the coming political campaign.

In her campaign kickoff speech in Lincoln on Saturday, Raybould made it clear that she is depending on the "wild independent streak" in Nebraskans that led them to create a nonpartisan, one-house legislature and that sometimes has emerged in election contests. 

Fischer responded to the announcement of Raybould's candidacy with a statement suggesting that Nebraskans "know my record of getting things done (and) they also know I am their fighter."

Nebraska Democrats have signaled that they also have a gubernatorial candidate identified and ready to step onto the stage. 

That too will be an uphill battle for them as Gov. Pete Ricketts seeks a second term in what is going to be a three-way race.

Bob Krist is preparing to gain access to the general election ballot as a new third-party candidate, providing an alternative choice for voters who would prefer someone other than Ricketts or the Democratic nominee.

Finishing up

* Total eclipses and comets seldom come and swiftly go: "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812," the terrific Broadway musical based on a passage from Tolstoy's "War and Peace," closes prematurely next weekend.  

 * Pedro Martinez is absolutely the wrong guy to dump (with good reason) on Gary Sanchez for cheap-shoting some Tigers during last week's baseball brawl. When he was pitching, Pedro intentionally drilled batters repeatedly and once threw 72-year-old Don Zimmer to the ground. When he moved over to the National League to finish his career, brave Pedro quit throwing at batters because suddenly he could be a target at the plate too. 

* Can it be? Football this coming weekend.  

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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