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Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete left the Republican Party and registered as a Libertarian Party member two weeks after Gov. Pete Ricketts called out state senators who are Republicans by name for not supporting him or the GOP on some contentious legislative issues.

"I'd been thinking about changing for several months," she said Wednesday, "but I suppose that was sort of the final push."

Ebke, who always had identified herself as a Republican whose political philosophy was libertarian, changed her registration online last week.

"I'm not willing to bend my principles to go along or cast a vote just for the sake of party unity," she said during a telephone interview.

Ebke was sitting in the back of the room at the Republican state convention in Omaha last month when Ricketts criticized more than a dozen state senators who are Republicans for votes they cast, arguing for the need to elect "platform Republicans" to the nonpartisan Legislature.

"The governor is entitled to call people out," she said, "but that was an interesting time to do that."

Ebke has cast votes to override several of the governor's vetoes, including his rejection of bills to repeal the death penalty, authorize Nebraska driver's licenses for young undocumented immigrants who have lawful presence in the United States and grant the right for those young people to acquire professional and occupational licenses to work in the state.

"I agree with the Republican Party on many things and I have many friends in the party," she said.

"Republicans talk about fiscal responsibility, but they tend to place not such a high emphasis on civil liberties."

Ebke said the approaching nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican Party's presidential choice affected her decision "maybe a little (because) I can't imagine myself voting for him."

"But it's less about Trump per se than what that reflects about the Republican Party," she said.  

Now, she said, she has a presidential nominee she can support.

The Libertarian Party last weekend chose former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as its nominee and paired him with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as the party's vice presidential nominee.

Ebke said she has "great respect" for Republican Sen. Ben Sasse because of his determination to "stand his ground" in refusing to support Trump despite growing pressure from his party.

"The negative ramifications for me may not be as great as they are for him," she said.

Ebke was elected to the Legislature in 2014 and is midway through her first term.  

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On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

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

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