Sen. Laura Ebke switches from Republican to Libertarian

Sen. Laura Ebke (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)
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June 1, 2016 - 5:05pm

Nebraska State Sen. Laura Ebke is switching from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party.

Ebke, a political scientist from Crete, is in the second year of her four-year term representing the 32nd legislative district, which includes Saline, Fillmore, Thayer, and Jefferson counties, along with part of Lancaster County.

In a letter to supporters, she described her lifelong affiliation with the Republican Party. But she said the party has failed to make good on its promise of smaller government, lower taxes, and fiscal control.

Ebke also said people who want her vote on controversial issues will have to make the case based on solid reasoning, not on what she called “manufactured partisan hyperbole” that she sometimes experienced in the Legislature. “I try to judge issues based on their merits, based on the records before us in committee hearings, and based on my reading of the situation. And there were a few times when there was a fair amount of pressure being placed to vote otherwise,” she said.

Ebke cited a bill she supported this year allowing young people brought to this country illegally as children access to professional licenses. “I think that there was a real desire by many especially after last year and three veto overrides, there was a real desire to keep those things off of the governor’s desk and to keep him from having to veto anything,” she said.

Asked for reaction, Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a statement saying “I campaigned with Senator Ebke when we were both on the Republican ticket, but understand that party affiliation is a function of where your principles most closely align. I respect her decision and look forward to working with her.”

People run for the officially nonpartisan Unicameral without being identified by party affiliation.

Ebke’s announcement comes two days after she joined in a bipartisan group of 13 senators criticizing Ricketts for calling out Republicans who did not support the party’s platform. Ricketts said it’s fair game to hold people accountable for their votes.

Asked if he’s concerned others will leave the party,  Nebraska Republican Party Executive Director Bud Synhorst said “I think we’ve got a lot of good strong conservative Republicans that are serving in the Legislature. We’ve got a lot of great conservative Republican candidates that we’re working with this year to get elected to the Legislature. So I’m pleased with where we’re at.”

Ebke’s switch means there will now be 35 Republicans, 12 Democrats, 1 Libertarian and 1 independent in the  Legislature, until voters have their say in November.

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