Fischer wins GOP nod, will face Kerrey

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May 15th, 2012

Omaha, NE – State Senator Deb Fischer won the GOP nod for Nebraska’s open Senate seat in a surprise upset Tuesday night. Fischer will face Democratic candidate Bob Kerrey in November.

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State Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine won a surprise victory Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

After a close race, with Attorney General Jon Bruning as the early presumed front runner, Fischer surged ahead to win 41% of the vote, defeating Bruning by over 10,000 votes at final count. State Treasurer Don Stenberg came in a distant third with 18.8% of votes counted.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator and Nebraska Governor Bob Kerrey won by a predictably large margin with over 80% of the vote. He faced little opposition, making a late entrance to the race and buoyed by national name recognition and a network of well-connected supporters.

At a reception at the downtown Hilton Hotel in Omaha, Kerrey drew a sharp contrast to his potential Republican challenger, later that night officially listed as Fischer. He stressed the need for bipartisanship, and his supporters gave him loud applause when he spoke about social justice through reforming tax codes and protecting healthcare.

Former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey will face Fischer in November. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

Kerrey said most politicians talk about protecting social safety nets for future generations, but he said their policies rarely deliver. “Every politician that gets up and gives a speech talks about our children and our grandchildren,” Kerrey said. “So are you putting your money where your mouth is, or are you just being another windbag talking about something you’re really not going to do anything about?”

In Lincoln, Fischer addressed her supporters, saying she had won the race with a grassroots campaign. “We are Nebraskans and that’s how you campaign in Nebraska,” she said. “That’s how you get elected in Nebraska. And that’s how you better represent Nebraska.”

With a dig at Kerrey’s decade-long residency in New York, Fischer added, “We don’t need the same type of person who’s supposedly going to represent us in Washington. We need somebody different, somebody’s who’s tough, somebody who’s effective, somebody who is a Nebraskan.”

The race for Nebraska’s Senate seat has become a nationally-watched contest, as Democrats in the Senate pin their hopes on Kerrey in their quest to hold on to majority control. Political action committees on both sides of the aisle have poured money into the race, which is likely to heat up now that the candidates have been decided.

For full election results, click here.

Fred Knapp of NET News, Robyn Wisch and Lindsey Peterson contributed to this report.

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