Don Walton: Heineman is right; primary battles help

2013-04-14T20:00:00Z 2013-05-19T15:04:08Z Don Walton: Heineman is right; primary battles helpBy DON WALTON / Column

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here, but Nebraska's 2014 election board already is in play.

If you occasionally sneak a peek at ESPN's online baseball Gamecast at work when the boss isn't looking, you know that often you'll have to wait to see what a batter just did while the screen tantalizes you with "ball in play."

Or, so I've heard.

Same deal with 2014 and those prized openings for governor and a seat in the U.S. Senate. Look for competitive Republican primary battles for both premier positions if Dave Heineman doesn't enter the Senate race. 

Democrats obviously face a much greater challenge navigating today's statewide political landscape, so it's a little more difficult to see what's likely to happen there.  

Early on, at least one strong Democratic gubernatorial candidate appears already assured. The Senate race is really fuzzy.

Heineman has said it many times, and Democrats probably ought to listen: Republicans have built strong and winning statewide candidates by challenging and testing them in the crucible of tough primary battles. 

That's how they emerged as strong and seasoned general election nominees. That's how they built successful, effective campaigns. That's how most of them became well-known even before the general election campaign began. 

Let's see: Dave Heineman, Mike Johanns, Chuck Hagel, Deb Fischer. All of them won sharply contested statewide primaries. All of them began those Republican primary races as underdogs.

And, on the Democratic side, don't forget that's how Ben Nelson first emerged in 1990.

Behind-the-scenes Republican primary battles already are building now for the governor and Senate prizes if Heineman doesn't run. Old names; new names.

Democrats might be wise to try to encourage a competitive statewide primary of their own. 

Or perhaps even two.

* * *

Chuck Hagel's defense budget appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee will be this week, not last week as I had inferred from Hagel's earlier remarks during an appearance at the National Defense University. 

Last week was a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.

The secretary of defense is scheduled to discuss the defense budget with Senate committee members Wednesday.

That budget looks beyond reliance on large Iraq-invasion-style land armies to cyberspace, special operations, global mobility and unmanned systems.

In addition to rebalancing the U.S. defense emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region, along with the Middle East, Hagel told the House committee that the budget places a premium on rapidly deployable, self-sustaining forces such as submarines, long-range bombers and carrier strike groups that can project power over great distance and carry out a variety of missions.

Finishing up:

* Season ticket sales for Husker men's basketball in the new arena are off the charts. Based on drawings of the new floor design depicting an outline of the state, three of us have secured Panhandle seats. 

* So, if University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduation ceremonies are going to be in the stadium, is there an opportunity for a big-name speaker?

* In the wake of Zach Greinke's broken collarbone, Don Mattingly had an idea worth considering: If you start a fight that injures an opposing player, you don't play again until he does.

* What could be an epic legislative debate on Medicaid expansion is scheduled to begin Tuesday. With tax reform shelved, this looks like the biggie.

* Heath Mello has been selected as one of 11 "rising leaders" recognized by NewDEAL, a national network of "pro-growth progressives."

* Minority opinion: That was a great national championship basketball game, partly because the referees -- who have been criticized for not blowing their whistles more by better basketball minds than mine -- allowed the teams to play, resulting in speedy back-and-forth transition and a seamless flow to the game instead of brief segments interrupted by free throws. 

* Now, if we could do something about all the TV timeouts. Switch from playing two halves to four quarters and bunch TV commercials in between?

* Scotts Bluff County Democrats are initiating a new party event called the Kerrey-Nelson Legacy Dinner in Gering on April 27. 

* Looks like the Lincoln City Council races are a startover, essentially even after that small primary election turnout. So, let's do it again. And let's show up this time.

 * Among the least dangerous results of global warming and climate change is the recent realignment of the Nebraska calendar. Spring arrives later now, but so does winter.   

* Jack's touchdown run has surpassed an astonishing 7.3 million views on YouTube. And the number continues to rise. 

* It's tax deadline day. My IRS 1040 has been dispatched. In exchange for what I get in return, what a bargain!

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or

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