Nebraska Race For US Senate Heats Up

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October 1, 2020 - 5:17am

The U.S. Senate race in Nebraska has gotten a lot of attention this election season, with incumbent Ben Sasse facing a fight from a candidate who has had to deal with his own challenges. As part of our Campaign Connection 2020 coverage, we look at the four Senate candidates and their policies heading into election day.


Omaha business owner Chris Janicek won May’s primary contest to be the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate.

Democrat Chris Janicek at the U.S. Senate Debate at the NET studios. (Courtesy NET)

The field seemed to be set; it would be Janicek, incumbent Republican Ben Sasse and Libertarian Gene Siadek.

Then in June, revelations of inappropriate text messages sent by Janacek to a campaign staffer caused the Democratic Party to withdraw its support from his campaign. Janicek has since addressed the texts.

“I made a huge mistake with that text and I apologized to everyone involved including the woman involved. She accepted my apology and that's it,” Janicek said.

But he has refused to drop out of the race and said he has the best shot to beat Sasse in November. He said Democrats, as usual, face an uphill battle to win statewide office.

“Even if every Democrat voted for the Democratic candidate, they're still not going to win,” Janicek said.  “We have to pull support from moderates, Republicans, even the conservative Republicans.”

Data from last month shows nearly 48% of registered voters in Nebraska are Republican and only 29% are Democrats, with about 22% registered as non-partisan. Janicek thinks he can be the one to win the race.

“I have traveled West, I have traveled north and I have traveled south and right here in Omaha and Lincoln, the frustration level has peaked and people want another option,” Janicek said.

Republican incumbent Ben Sasse at the U.S. Senate Debate at the NET studios. (Courtesy NET)

Janicek said at the top of the list of concerns for Nebraskans, especially in rural areas, is reasonably priced healthcare.

“They understand the crisis that is going on with healthcare,” Janicek said. “These farmers and these ranchers that have no other option but to get on the Affordable Health Care Act, they even call it Obamacare and they do it with no shame.”

Janicek said high deductibles and costs for catastrophic health coverage isn’t health care and is instead a money-making machine.

Incumbent Republican Ben Sasse, who took office in 2014, said along with cracking down on spying by China, healthcare tops his list of policy focuses.

“Here is what I want to do: I want to get to a place where Nebraskans can keep their insurance policies even when they change jobs and geographies,” Sasse.

He also said people are misled about Americans being uninsured.

“By far the largest driver of health uninsurance in America, is job change. Folks tend to think that it's preexisting medical conditions or its poverty or socio-economic status,” Sasse said. “That's not true. The majority reason that people are uninsured in America is because they change jobs.”

Sasse adds that healthcare, and many other issues in Washington, aren’t likely to pass anytime soon.

Libertarian Gene Siadek (Photo Courtesy Gene Siadek)

“Right now there is not 40% consensus on any one issue, let alone 60% and it takes 60 votes to get anything done in the US Senate. So I wish healthcare were a more high priority issue,” Sasse said.

Libertarian Candidate Gene Siadek, the director of water distribution at the Metropolitan Utilities Districts, said government bureaucrats shouldn’t decide what is good for Americans when it comes to healthcare.

He points to Canada as an example of what socialized medicine looks like.

“If you go into Canada for example, the average wait for emergency room is about four hours,” Siadek said.

He said another issue bogging down the country is the debt burden.

“The problem with the debt is you don't see a depression-like effect from the debt,” Siadek said. “What happens with it is just a slight decreasing of a standard of living that occurs over time.”

Because of that, it might not resonate with a large chunk of voters, but Siadek said it should.

“Something has to change,” Siadek said. “By voting for me you would send the message that you're not happy with the way the other two parties have been managing the political scheme in the world as it is.”

After Chris Janicek lost the support of the Nebraska Democratic Party, the party turned to North Omaha activist Preston Love Jr., an African-American. He declared himself a write-in candidate last month. 

“My candidacy has potential of opening up a door without trying to. It will open up a door that would never can be closed. You can't close the doors of history,” Love said.

Love said Ben Sasse has failed his community and Nebraska.

“I don't know of any instance where my senator has ever been to my community and had dialogue with any of the leadership or community,” Love said. “That's not good.”

Democrat Preston Love Jr. (Courtesy Photo)

He points to Sasse’s record of voting alongside President Trump. According to the political website FiveThirtyEight, Ben Sasse has voted with the president 86.5% of the time. But Love said it isn’t about Sasse, it’s about him and what he has to offer voters that Sasse doesn’t. At 78, Love is the oldest candidate in the race, but he doesn’t see that as a bad thing.

“But that wisdom is made up of a whole lot of good things and upsides and downsides, some challenges and conquering of that, and some victories over the dark side, if you will,” Love said.

Love said his focus will be helping fix the urban and rural divide, pointing to much needed economic development in North Omaha and rural areas of Nebraska. He said his time as an activist, professor and working with campaigns will attract voters come Election Day.

“It's almost like all of that has prepared me to bring that kind of person to the center,” Love said.

A Democrat hasn’t been elected to serve as U.S. Senator in Nebraska since 2006 when Ben Nelson won re-election.

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