Sunday, May 21, 2006

Primary Wrap-Up

For those of you down on Leavenworth Street who don't read the Lincoln Journal Star every day, here's a fantastic wrap-up from last week of the major races, candidates and politicos in Nebraska, by the LJS's Don Walton. Don's The Man. It's too bad the OWH doesn't have a political columnist like him. We're re-printing the article in its entirety, or you can click here to read it from the LJS site:

Don Walton: Heineman win impacts Hagel, Ricketts
by Don Walton, Lincoln Journal Star

Big victory for Dave Heineman. And he wasn’t the only one who won.

Heineman’s Republican gubernatorial triumph was good for Pete Ricketts and Chuck Hagel.

And for the Nebraska Republican establishment, or so it is deeply believed.

Hagel had placed his leadership prestige on the line by supporting the governor over Tom Osborne.

Although Heineman won this one on his own — with the help of a superb campaign managed by Carlos Castillo — his victory kept Hagel’s coattails intact in Nebraska.

It also means Hagel didn’t lose a race on his home court to his buddy, colleague and potential 2008 rival, John McCain, who endorsed Osborne.

Now, Hagel no longer faces the uncomfortable possibility that his home state governor might endorse McCain for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination even if Hagel entered the race.

On Wednesday, Hagel acknowledged his endorsement created a level of “tension” in his relationship with Osborne. No doubt about that, it shows.

This is highly speculative, and we’ll never know, but it seems likely that a Governor Osborne might have worked more closely in Washington with Ben Nelson, a Democrat, than with Hagel, assuming Nelson is re-elected this November.

And how about Ricketts in his bid to unseat Nelson?

He’s likely to receive more time and attention and assistance from Heineman than he might have from Osborne on the campaign trail this autumn. Heineman’s more of a partisan, more of a party guy.

Which brings us to the GOP establishment.

Clearly on Heineman’s side in the gubernatorial primary race, most party insiders and interest groups aligned with the GOP will breathe more easily now.

Osborne is not an insider, not a party devotee, not as partisan, too independent for GOP insiders and activists who put a premium on party. Many of the interest groups, denied an opportunity to even contribute money to the Osborne campaign, also worried about that independent nature.

When Osborne promised his governorship would “not be politics as usual,” those were not comforting words to everyone.

Heineman was, is and will be a party enthusiast, who could be expected to use the governorship to help build the GOP in the same way that Jim Exon strengthened the Democratic Party during his eight-year tenure in the State Capitol.

Location of Heineman’s Lincoln campaign operation next door to Republican state headquarters spoke volumes symbolically, even though the GOP and the governor’s campaign functioned behind separate doors.

So, whose fortunes dip with Osborne’s loss?

Kate Witek, his running mate.

Jon Bruning, who found himself on the losing side. But Bruning, at age 37 and with his eyes on higher office in the future, is in position to build his own record as attorney general and has plenty of time to recover any lost ground.

Now, a word about Tom Osborne.

“I thought I had a pretty good level of trust in the state,” he said in a telephone interview shortly before midnight, an hour after he knew he had lost.

“But I wasn’t the guy they wanted to lead the state.”

What hurt, Osborne said, was to lose in rural areas “where I thought I had strength.”

And to lose there, he said, after working six years in Congress to bring farm programs, drought relief, rural health care assistance, rural education assistance, water resource funding, veterans assistance, broadband Internet development, resources to battle methamphetamine and more to western and central Nebraska.

He went to Washington where he could have coasted, but worked hard for his district.

It’s a cruel business.

Tom Osborne will recover and find another way to serve.

Certainly through his youth mentoring program.

Perhaps with a program to battle meth, or tackle youth drugs and underage drinking, or protect children who are suffering and dying.

Perhaps the high-rollers in Omaha who supported him would like to fund a foundation to support his good works.

This is a guy who was the greatest college football coach of his time — and if you consider what he accomplished, and where he did it, I think you can make a case for greatest coach of all time. An average of 10 victories a season for 25 years straight, with never fewer than nine, are you kidding?

Add six years of performance as a member of Congress.

Something tells me there’s more to come.

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