Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts sailed to a second term in Nebraska on Tuesday, prevailing over a Democratic state lawmaker who promised to govern as a centrist and reduce partisanship at the Capitol.
Republicans typically are favored in Nebraska, given the GOP’s large voter registration edge, and Ricketts had reason to be optimistic with a five-to-one spending advantage and a series of television ads that touted his efforts to promote business locally and abroad.
“I’m grateful to the people of Nebraska for allowing us to continue the work on the foundation we’ve built,” Ricketts said in an interview with The Associated Press after his victory. “I’m very excited to have this opportunity for the next four years, and I look forward to getting back to work.”
His challenger, state Sen. Bob Krist, stressed his work to lower property taxes and promote nonpartisanship in an increasingly polarized Legislature. Krist was previously a Republican but often clashed with GOP leaders and changed his affiliation after announcing his run for governor. He briefly registered as an independent but joined the Democrats because it provided an easier path to qualify for the ballot.
In an interview after his loss, Krist told the AP that he was proud of his campaign and “laid it all on the line” in hopes of scoring a surprise upset. He said he doesn’t believe Ricketts has worked hard enough to address rising property taxes, a major concern for farmers and ranchers. Ricketts disputed the allegation, pointing to several initiatives he has introduced over the last four years.
“Something has to be done,” Krist said. “I think the citizens of Nebraska are about ready to put a (property tax) referendum on the ballot. I can only hope and pray this is a wakeup call for Pete Ricketts.”
Ricketts was elected governor in 2014 after narrowly surviving a six-man GOP primary and easily defeating his Democratic opponent, Chuck Hassebrook.