GOP game changer PDF E-mail

The field is set now for what promises to be an interesting race to replace Dave Heineman in the Nebraska governor’s mansion.

Jon Bruning surprised many with this week’s decision to throw his hat in the ring, though he instantly becomes the man to beat despite his 11th-hour entry. A week before Bruning was even listed as an official candidate he had a 2-1 lead over Pete Ricketts as the early favorite, according to a Harper poll.

On the GOP side, Bruning and Ricketts are joined by Mike Foley, Tom Carlson, Beau McCoy and Bryan Slone. There is a good mix of conservative leadership, legislative experience and fire in the belly from that group, though Bruning and Ricketts have a huge lead in statewide name recognition at this stage of the game.

Chuck Hassebrook is the only name on the Democratic ticket, after Dist. 34 Sen. Annette Dubas withdrew from the race. That could have been a close primary, and it’s disappointing, frankly, that there isn’t a choice to be had for Democratic voters.

As for Bruning’s late entry, there are a couple of questions that loom large for the sitting attorney general. Topping that list is why in the world did he wait so long to declare?

In his Saturday debut, Bruning said he “realized in the last week or two” that he has the experience to get things done. There is a lot more to it than that, truth be told, since Bruning had to be thinking about this possibility the day after he was stunned in a 2012 primary loss to Deb Fisher, who went on to win a U.S. Senate seat.

That was a blow for Bruning, who had to be asking how and why GOP voters didn’t give him the nod. He could have stayed where he was as attorney general, though anyone who has followed his career knew he had aspirations for higher office.

It’s obvious that Bruning was watching the governor’s race field shape up during the last year and seeing no Mike Floods in the hunt decided this was his time. It’s a risky gamble, as he now has to go all in and leave the AG’s office, unlike the Senate race where he had a comfortable Plan B.

With approximately 90 days left until the May primary, Nebraska Republicans have a lot to consider in choosing their candidate for governor. It’s been a long, long time since the last time that happened, dating back to the 2006 primary between Heineman and Tom Osborne.

Then, as now, some of the top issues on the minds of Nebraskans are property taxes, education, health care and sustainable water resources. Selecting the right man to help navigate those challenging waters will be critical for the next generation.

Kurt Johnson

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