Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley announce their campaign for re-election in 2017.

Here's a statistical look at the built-in Republican advantage in Nebraska as we approach Tuesday's primary election:

* A new and commanding statewide voter registration bulge of 222,000.

* Majorities in each of the three congressional districts, including an advantage of 14,000 in the competitive 2nd District, where portions of Sarpy County provide a huge Republican majority compared to a narrow Democratic edge in Douglas County. Redistricting in 2011 strengthened the GOP in the 2nd District, as it was carefully designed to do.

* Republican majorities in 40 of Nebraska's 49 nonpartisan legislative districts, with all of the majority-Democratic districts located in Lincoln and Omaha. A proposed change in redistricting policy that may surface in the Legislature again would dramatically disrupt many of those majority-Democratic districts. 

This is a red state. 

Democrats last won a premier statewide race when Ben Nelson was re-elected to the Senate in 2006. Nelson also was the last Democrat to be elected governor when he won a second term in 1994. That was 24 years ago.

"Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," Martin Luther King said.

In Nebraska, the arc of the political universe bends toward Republicans. 

* * *

Some valuable observations from Paul Landow, who teaches political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha after previously being deeply engaged at the center of Nebraska's political life, perhaps most notably as chief of staff for former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey.

"I don't think we can continue on the path we're on," Landow says.

"No compromise, extreme anger and bitterness, willingness to tear down institutions in order to further your own political goals.

"We can't continue to keep turning typical disagreements (into) hammer-and-tong fights where you consider that person a mortal enemy.

"There's a big difference between political disagreement and war, all-out war."

* * *

Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, who had sought a special legislative session this year to deal with property tax relief, says he was blindsided by the sudden closure of the petition drive to place a billion dollar property tax relief initiative on the general election ballot.

"I am forced to wonder if there was a political reason for killing the petition in the no-notice, abrupt way it happened," Brewer wrote his constituents.

"For some reason, the potential donors that were identified early in the process all dried up. Something changed their minds.

"A number of people and organizations were publicly opposed to the ballot initiative from the start," Brewer wrote. "I'll leave it to others to speculate."

"So, where does that leave us?" he asked. 

"Stay tuned. I'm not done yet."

* * *

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Chuck Hagel tried to convince U.S. leadership that it should reach out to Iran 16 years ago when he was also warning that a U.S. invasion of Iraq "could inflame the entire Muslim world."

A new generation of Iranians — half the population at the time was 25 or younger — was looking westward, openly seeking contact and a better relationship with the United States, Hagel said.

"We should not needlessly alienate that next generation that wants to be westernized and wants to be our friends," he said.

"How do we best influence the behavior of Iran?" Hagel asked. Through engagement, he said, "not by mindlessly pushing them away."

In hindsight, Nebraska's former U.S. senator who later became U.S. secretary of defense looks spot-on with respect to Iran.

And to what followed in the form of ISIS and terrorist recruitment on the heels of Iraq.

Finishing up

* If you ever get discouraged about your country, Whitney Houston can help. Her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the 1991 Super Bowl still sends shivers and can raise goose bumps. You Tube it whenever you want. 

* Nebraska Appleseed has expressed its opposition to a new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would increase line speeds in pork processing plants while removing federal inspectors, with Omaid Zabih pointing to "the significant danger this poses to our country's workers and our food safety." 

* With agreements unilaterally abandoned and missiles flying, it's getting a little Biblical in the Mideast once again. 

* Tom Brewer had a code name for his special legislative session effort: "Operation Mongoose."

* In the best of all worlds, there would be a separate line for designer coffee.

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

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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