NE’s Top Dem: Ashford helped save state’s 2-party system


Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

Don’t tell the head of the Nebraska Democratic Party that the 2016 race for Congress in Omaha has already begun—Vince Powers has a victory to celebrate. At the same time he’s ready and willing to talk about his party’s overall future, even though it’s full of questions.

Congressman-elect Brad Ashford-D, NE-2.

Last week only hours after Democrat Brad Ashford had defeated 8-term incumbent Republican Lee Terry, tea partyer Chip Maxwell of Omaha announced he was running in 2016.

Almost immediately Nebraska Watchdog asked Ashford (see interview below) if he’d have to spend the next two years campaigning and not legislating.

“The best campaign is getting things done in Washington,” answered Ashford.

But Powers complained about the questioning.”It was not news. The news was Brad winning,” Powers told Nebraska Watchdog.

In an interview with Nebraska Watchdog, Powers goes on to argue that Ashford’s victory—the state’s only major Democratic win this year—is a political game-saver.

Nebraska Watchdog: What happened to Nebraska Democrats on Election Night?

Vince Powers: Number one and most important is Ashford’s victory was extremely important for the two-party system to exist in Nebraska. It had been since 2006 that a Democrat had won a major race in Nebraska. The state party has aggressively fund raised if we did not have a win in one of the three major races this year it would have been extremely difficult moving forward. People would just say “what’s the point.” The Nebraska Democratic Party is in much better shape today than it was before (Election Day).

Nebraska Watchdog: In some respects did Brad Ashford (who ran for Congress, and lost, as a Republican in 1994) save the Nebraska Democratic Party?

Vince Powers: Save is a strong word. Brad Ashford played a significant role in saving the 2-party system in Nebraska.

Nebraska Watchdog: Republicans are already thinking about 2016. Is it the Democratic Party’s priority to keep Ashford in office in two years?

Vince Powers: I want to see Brad sworn in first OK. The priority for the Democratic Party is to figure out how we are able to tie our issues that are popular, such as the minimum wage (it won 60-40) that are supported by Democrats, to our candidates. The voters agree with us on important progressive issues when they are neutral, not when it’s tied to a Democrat and part of that is the demonization of Democrats by AM radio and FOX, it’s 24-7.

18 months ago in an interview with Nebraska Watchdog, Powers—then struggling to find candidates for the U.S. Senate, Omaha House seat and governor’s office, worried Nebraska “did not want to be like Kansas” where conservatives were flourishing.

On Election Day the Kansas GOP survived unexpectedly tough fights for Senate and governor, fights that never occurred in Nebraska where the GOP’s Pete Ricketts won the governor’s race over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook by 18 points while Republican Senate hopeful Ben Sasse waltzed to a 34-point win over Democrat Dave Domina.

Nebraska Watchdog: Where do you think Nebraska is right now in that Kansas comparison?

Vince Powers: We’re going to see what happens in the legislature and with the governor. I think it’s only fair to hold Pete Ricketts to his word. He campaigned as a moderate. He ran away from the Platte Institute. If Pete Ricketts is true to his campaign and what he said then I think the Kansas comparison may not apply. If Ricketts’ governs as (Wisconsin Governor) Walker did—he got elected as a moderate and then went far right in his agenda—and (Kansas Governor) Brownback, so we’ll have to see. I do think Brad’s election goes a long way to preventing Kansas.

Nebraska Watchdog: Is it better for you if Ricketts’ governs as a moderate or a conservative?

Vince Powers: I just want Pete Ricketts to do a good job. We’ll continue to work the issues we think are important (read Nebraska Watchdog’s exclusive report here) to Nebraskans, like Medicaid expansion and the minimum wage.

Although Hassebrook and Domina lost big, Powers says the two “ran real political campaigns” which brought out paid workers and volunteers from across the state “who aren’t going away and we didn’t have that in the past.”

Contact Joe Jordan at

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday morning at 7:40, KLIN in Lincoln every Tuesday morning at 7:35 and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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