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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON–The tea party scored a victory over the Republican establishment Tuesday, with Nebraska voters choosing conservative Ben Sasse as the party’s U.S. Senate nominee.

As is happening in Republican primaries across the country, however, the difference between tea party and establishment has blurred.

The tea party-aligned Sasse, the Harvard-educated president of Midland University, is a former George W. Bush administration official and corporate consultant. The youthful dad of three swept several other candidates after an outpouring of tea party support that included campaign stops by Sarah Palin and hard-line GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The Nebraska seat came open with the retirement of Republican Sen. Mike Johanns and is expected to remain in GOP hands, all but ensuring that Sasse will become the state’s junior senator.

In Washington, Senate Republican campaign Chairman Jerry Moran welcomed Sasse’s win, emphasizing his record as “problem solver,” rather than as a hard-right conservative.

Shane Osborn, a former Navy pilot who became Nebraska’s state treasurer, had been a conservative favorite. But he was sidelined as tea party groups coalesced around Sasse. Also losing was Sid Dinsdale, a third-generation banker endorsed by the Omaha World Herald as the candidate most Nebraskans would be “comfortable with.”

Outside groups poured $3 million into the Nebraska race, most of it to prop up Sasse and oppose the other two main candidates as Republicans battled Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The GOP has a good chance of winning the six seats needed to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats this November, but first they must pick their candidates amid the continued party divide.

A primary was also held Tuesday in West Virginia, where Shelley Moore Capito, a seven-term Republican congresswoman, easily won the GOP Senate nomination. She is favored in November against Democrat Natalie Tennant, the secretary of state.

The West Virginia seat came open with the retirement of longtime Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat. But the Mountain State has drifted away from Democrats since Rockefeller’s election 30 years ago; it is expected to tilt to the GOP in November.

Screenshot: YouTube

  • Dominick Vila

    The sad truth is that the GOP – including the Tea Party – is likely to win more seats in the House, the Senate, and Governorships this year, not because of their record or because they deserve it, but because of the failure of the Democratic party to highlight our accomplishments and their failures.

    • Allan Richardson

      That fate can be avoided if all activist Democrats (and just plain non-Republicans and non-Tea-Party Republicans) get off our * and WORK, then VOTE in November. Their weapons are gerrymandering, vote suppression, and TV ad money; ours are the enthusiasm of volunteers and the truth.


    To those of us who believe that the Republican Party is the right one for the country, then vote for them. Just remember what their platform is. Do away with Medicare, do away with Medicaid, More Charter schools that take profit before educating the children. Depleting public school funds so that the public schools WILL FAIL. It is up to you to put the right people in office. It is not the Tea Party nor the Republican Party.