Three-Way Battle in Nebraska Is Top Race on Tap Today

Posted May 10, 2004 at 4:55pm

The contentious Republican primary to select a successor to Nebraska Rep. Doug Bereuter (R) dominates the slate of Congressional races on tap for today.

Voters are also going to the polls in West Virginia.

In Nebraska, state House Speaker Curt Bromm, Nebraska Cattlemen executive Greg Ruehle and former Lincoln City Councilman Jeff Fortenberry are the three leading Republicans in the Lincoln-based 1st district.

Bromm entered the race as the decided favorite, courtesy of Bereuter’s endorsement.

But the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative organization based in Washington, D.C., decided to endorse Ruehle, which has essentially leveled the playing field.

Not only has the club bundled contributions to bolster Ruehle’s somewhat disappointing fundraising, but it has also spent $145,000 on television commercials attacking Bromm for his record on taxes.

Bromm has shot back with an ad of his own defending his record, and a number of his colleagues in the state Senate have spoken out publicly in his defense.

While the attacks on Bromm have dominated the race, the strength of Fortenberry’s campaign has also surprised many observers.

Fortenberry, the most conservative candidate in the field, gave $25,000 from his own pocket to the race one week ago, bringing his total personal investment to $40,000.

Buoyed by his own money, Fortenberry has stayed financially competitive with Bromm, and Ruehle and is widely acknowledged to have the best grassroots operation of the three.

If Fortenberry wins the nomination, Democrats’ chances of capturing the seat in November are much improved.

State Sen. Matt Connealy is the strong favorite for the Democratic nomination, although attorney Janet Stewart, perennial candidate Charlie Matulka and retired businessman Phil Chase are also running.

Connealy went up with a radio ad late last week featuring former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey (D), who has endorsed his candidacy.

In the ad, Kerrey says Connealy is “our best chance to win this Congressional seat.”

Democrats are also keen on state Sen. Nancy Thompson’s candidacy against Rep. Lee Terry (R) in the Omaha-based 2nd district, but neither has a primary challenge.

In West Virginia, three Democrats square off for the chance to face Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in the fall.

Howard Swint, who took 14 percent in a 1996 primary against then-2nd district Rep. Bob Wise (D), is the frontrunner.

Former television anchor Erik Wells and political consultant Chris Turman are also in the race.

A perennial Democratic target, Capito looks likely to have her easiest race since coming to Congress in 2000.

She had $746,000 on hand on March 21; only Turman had not even filed a fundraising report with the Federal Election Commission at that time. He showed $72,000 in the bank.

In West Virginia’s 3rd district, Republicans Rick Snuffer and Marty Gearheart are competing for the dubious distinction of becoming the GOP nominee against Rep. Nick Rahall.

Rahall is serving his 14th term in Congress and will be heavily favored regardless of his opponent this fall.