The Other Nebraska Races

With so much attention focused on Republican Gov. David Heinemann’s dramatic defeat of Rep. and former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne two weeks ago, results from other nomination battles in the Cornhusker State took a back seat. But there were several important contests.

Pete Ricketts, former chief operating officer of the Ameritrade Holding Corp., handily won the Republican nomination for the Senate over two opponents. First-time candidate Ricketts, who took a strong stand for securing the borders and said he would have voted against both the administration-backed "No Child Left Behind" federal education program and the costly prescription-drug bill, drew 48% of the vote to 36% for former State Attorney General and 2000 Senate nominee Don Stenberg and 16% for former State Party Chairman David Kramer. Ricketts now faces Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.

In the 3rd District (Western Nebraska) vacated by Osborne, his top aide, John Hanson, had long been considered heir apparent to the outgoing congressman ("Cardinal Ratzinger to Osborne’s John Paul," as one wag put it). But in a stunning upset, conservative State Sen. Adrian Smith won the GOP nomination with 38% of the vote to 29% for Hanson and 28% to Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek. The 35-year-old Smith ran hardest on abortion and other social issues and had the support of the conservative Club for Growth.