Fischer defeats Kerrey for Nebraska U.S. Senate seat

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November 7, 2012 - 6:30am

Republican Deb Fischer will be Nebraska’s next U.S. Senator after defeating former Senator and Governor Bob Kerrey in Tuesday’s election.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Fischer strode to the lectern in Lincoln’s Cornhusker Hotel to claim victory.


Click here for a Storify - or story told through social media - looking at Nebraskans' reactions to election results.


Click here to listen to the full audio of Bob Kerrey's speech.

Click here to listen to the full audio of Deb Fischer's speech.

“Wow! Thank you Nebraska! We did it!” she exclaimed.

Fischer, a state senator from Valentine, led Kerrey all night long. Her lead was four percent in the early returns, and it increased to a 58 to 42 percent margin as the evening wore on. As she claimed victory, Fischer and her  supporters were gracious to Kerrey, who had waged an aggressive campaign against her. 

“I recently received a call from Bob Kerrey. He offered me congratulations, and I thank him. I thank Mr. Kerrey for his service to our country. I thank Mr. Kerrey for his service to our state. And I wish Mr. Kerrey and his family well. Thank you, Mr. Kerrey,” she said, to applause.

Meanwhile in Omaha, Kerrey was introduced to give his concession speech by his 11-year old son Henry, who told his dad it was “OK that he lost” and used a metaphor to say he could always try again: “When you’re playing a video game, it’s not like you just die automatically. You have at least three lives,” he said.

Kerrey, who campaigned on a pledge to be bipartisan, said the effort had been worthwhile.

“We did sound the alarm about a hyperpartisan dysfunctional Congress. And we offered specific proposals that would make our democracy more just, and more likely to produce ways to resolve rather than create more conflict. We earned the support of Republican leaders like Chuck Hagel who are equally alarmed and appalled by what they are seeing and what they see happening in our Capitol,” he said.

For her part, Fischer called for a return to basics.

“The prosperity and the security of our nation must be based on a return to first principles – principles that are deeply held by all Nebraskans,” she said. “Liberty, freedom, justice – but also, personal responsibility, hard work, and community.”

Photo by Emma Hoffman for NET News

Bob Kerrey gives his concession speech at his campaign party in La Vista, Neb.

The outcome of the race drew reflection from partisans on both sides. Erin Fogerty, who worked on Kerrey’s previous campaigns for Senate and for President in 1992, said this campaign had struggled to overcome criticism that Kerrey was returning to Nebraska from New York, where he had been a university president, only to run for Senate. “I am surprised at the number of Nebraskans who believe that if you go away to have experiences outside of the state that somehow prevents you from coming home and being a part of public service,” she said.

When Fischer takes over from retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in January, it will mark the first time since Jim Exon became governor 42 years ago in 1971 that no Democrat will hold statewide office in Nebraska. Gov. Dave Heineman, a longtime Republican stalwart, said he thinks that reflects a lack of competition among Democrats.

“To me, the real difference is…we believe in competitive primaries. Sen. Fischer, Sen. Johanns, myself, all three congressmen, we’ve gone through competitive primaries. That makes you stronger. That really hasn’t occurred in the Democratic Party…I think that’s hurting them,” he said.

As she closed out her victory speech, Fischer grew emotional. “I thank each of you for giving me your generous support. I thank each of you for placing your trust in me. I will not let you down. I will work hard. I will serve you with honesty and integrity. You know what? We’re going to build a better America,” she said.



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