Don Walton: GOP revolving door not closed yet

2014-02-09T15:00:00Z 2014-02-20T14:45:30Z Don Walton: GOP revolving door not closed yetBy DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star

OK, who's next?

Jon Bruning is in the Republican governor's race and the number of candidates is back to a shaky six. 

There have been 10 candidates so far, but never at the same time.  The revolving door has been spinning.

Mike Foley might be reviewing and weighing his options now, but we ought to just wait and see. A slam-dunk re-election as state auditor still would be an option until Feb. 18, when the candidate filing door slams shut for incumbent officeholders.

If Foley chose to reverse course, the scramble would be on for other Republicans to reposition themselves. The only statewide constitutional officer vacancy on the ballot in addition to governor then would be attorney general.

We'll know soon enough.

One of the scripts that some long-shot Republican candidates in both the gubernatorial and Senate races are eyeing hopefully now is the possibility of another Deb Fischer scenario. Or a 1998 Mike Johanns scenario.

Fischer, working hard and effectively, approached Election Day in her 2012 GOP Senate primary race relatively unscathed while Bruning sustained heavy fire and Don Stenberg took his knocks.

In the end, Fischer emerged as the winner.

In his 1998 Republican gubernatorial primary contest, Johanns campaigned for more than two years and avoided most of the fire until the end when Jon Christensen suddenly unloaded on him, triggering a nuclear response from Sen. Chuck Hagel that blew Christensen back into third place.

If Bruning and Pete Ricketts go toe to toe in the gubernatorial battle and Shane Osborn and Ben Sasse mix it up in the Senate race, some of the underdog candidates in each contest are hoping they might benefit in the end. 

Not many people picked Fischer at the beginning of her race two years ago — although I know of two who did. Johanns started his 1998 race against Christensen and John Breslow in third place.

But first let's get this gubernatorial field settled.  

Revolving door, Republican roundabout, musical chairs, rugby scrum, you name it. 

Just don't buy your program quite yet.

* * *

Republican conservative icon Tom Coburn phoned last week to express his support for Ben Sasse in Nebraska's Republican Senate race.

"Ben is just the kind of person we need in Washington," the Oklahoma senator said during a brief phone conversation from his car while he was traveling back home.

"I had a lot of interaction with Ben when he was at HHS and found he has unbelievable character," Coburn said. "He is a totally open and honest guy who is very responsive and very responsible."

Sasse was assistant U.S. secretary of health and human services during the George W. Bush administration.

"If Ben was running in Oklahoma, I'd vote for him," Coburn said.

Coburn, perhaps best known for his battles against deficit spending and what he has identified as pork barrel projects, was elected to the Senate in 2004. He plans to step down prior to conclusion of his current six-year term to focus on his battle with a reoccurrence of cancer.  

* * *

Finishing up:

* Here we go: Republican gubernatorial candidate Bryan Slone has begun airing TV ads with a statewide cable buy; GOP Senate candidate Bart McLeay launched his first TV ads during the opening of the Winter Olympics; an outside group called American Future Fund is airing TV ads supporting Republican gubernational candidate Beau McCoy. 

* It's hard to know how credible some polling results may be, but here's last week's Harper Polling figures: Shane Osborn, 30 percent; Ben Sasse, 29 percent, in the Republican Senate race; Jon Bruning, 35 percent; Pete Ricketts, 16 percent; Mike Foley, 14 percent, in the GOP governor race.

* Democratic Senate candidate Dave Domina has challenged members of Nebraska's all-Republican congressional delegation to vote to raise the debt ceiling without "toying with default" and making the United States "look dysfunctional to the world."

* Nebraska's weekly congressional breakfast in Washington hosting visiting Nebraskans began with a less formal gathering initiated by Sen. Hugh Butler in 1943, Jeff Fortenberry informs constituents in his latest Fort Report.

* Deacon Fellers, 5, talking to his dad, Trent, the other day: "I want to be in the newspaper. Everyone else gets to be in the newspaper and I never get to be in it."

* You're in, Deacon.

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at

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