Ryan Hamilton

Nebraska Republican Party Executive Director Ryan Hamilton. 

The answer is no.

Sen. John McCollister of Omaha on Tuesday declined Nebraska Republican Party executive director Ryan Hamilton's invitation to change his voter registration to Democratic in view of his comments suggesting the GOP is "enabling white supremacy in our country."

McCollister had faulted the party and its elected officials for failing to challenge President Donald Trump's words and deeds that "continually stoke racist fears in his base."

Hamilton promptly offered to send the Omaha state senator a voter registration form so he could change parties.

"In light of my recent comments, the Nebraska Republican Party issued a statement," McCollister responded on Twitter at mid-afternoon. "Did they join me in identifying and condemning obvious racism and duplicity inside of our party?

"Sadly, no. They instead encouraged me to leave the party.

"My response: No."

Twitter has served as the battleground with Gov. Pete Ricketts chipping in with a tweet condemning "baseless accusations made on social media."

Countering tongue-in-cheek, McCollister said during a telephone interview: "I have more followers than the governor."

In Twitter terms, Ricketts has almost 19,000 followers.

McCollister is approaching 25,000, and still rising, a huge surge from the 650 followers he had at the beginning of the week before this all went viral.

"I will continue to speak out and encourage my fellow Republicans to do so as well," McCollister tweeted.

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McCollister has also delivered his message on national television. An appearance on CNN on Monday night will be followed Wednesday by an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

On CNN, McCollister said he was "disappointed in Republican officeholders for allowing President Trump to say some of the hateful things that he's saying.

"It's time for them to stand up for a change," he said. 

In a statement posted on Twitter, Hamilton said: "John McCollister has been telegraphing for years that he has little, if nothing, in common with the Republican voters in his district by consistently advocating for higher taxes, restrictions on Americans' Second Amendment rights and the pro-abortion lobby.

"We're happy he has finally shed all pretense of being a conservative," Hamilton said. 

The break from the state party and Ricketts — for whom McCollister once worked at the Platte Institute — has been simmering for a while.

McCollister, an independent-minded legislator who has described himself as "a moderate Republican," has voted to override a number of the governor's vetoes.

Included in that list were bills to repeal the death penalty, increase the state gas tax, allow young immigrants who have legal presence in the United States as so-called DACA youths to acquire Nebraska driver's licenses and to earn professional and commercial licenses to work in the state. 

McCollister represents an economically and politically diverse Omaha legislative district that stretches from 72nd to 144th streets.  

Last November, he won reelection to a second four-year term in the nonpartisan Legislature.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.


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