SASSE: Sasse tells supporters about how the national media narrative about the GOP primary was wrong, that Nebraskans saw the race differently.

Updated Tuesday 9:53 p.m.

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – A newcomer to politics has walked away with Nebraska’s Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

With 45 percent of precincts reporting, Ben Sasse handily won the Senate race with 48 percent of the vote, followed by Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale with 23 percent, former State Treasurer Shane Osborn with 22 percent and Omaha attorney Bart McLeay with 6 percent, according to unofficial initial election results from the Secretary of State’s office.

State Treasurer Shane Osborn began the race with a 32-point lead in October, riding on name recognition and brief international fame in 2001 as a military hero after he landed his crippled spy plane in China and was held captive, along with his crew. But his comfortable lead evaporated as more and more Tea Party groups, conservative groups and right-wing celebrities like Sarah Palin endorsed Sasse, a 42-year-old former Bush administration official and president of a small Lutheran college in Fremont.

Sasse made repealing Obamacare the centerpiece of his campaign, traveling around the state with a 9-foot-high stack of paper that was as printout of all the rules and regulations associated with the Affordable Care Act. Experienced in fund raising for his college, Sasse also out-raised everybody else in the race, with a $2.5 million war chest by Election Day.

By February, the race was in a dead heat, and by late April Sasse had surpassed Osborn, according to internal polling. By last weekend, the Sasse campaign was releasing internal polling showing him with a double-digit lead.

Pinnacle Bancorp President Sid Dinsdale surged in the final weeks of the campaign — as Osborn and Sasse’s supporters beat each other up and Dinsdale poured $1 million into his campaign, buying plenty of air time where he decried the millions being spent by outside groups on the race.

“I didn’t fully appreciate what I was getting into,” Dinsdale said during his concession speech.

After being declared the winner, Sasse told supporters in Lincoln that D.C. political operatives called his candidacy a long shot, but when he told crowds he was a 42-year-old nonpolitician, they’d cheer.

“They didn’t bet on us, because they didn’t know you,” he said. “Nebraskans know that Washington isn’t just broke, it’s broken.”

Sasse says he was criticized for talking to Democrats, but he’ll continue to do so “because we want to win them to the right side of the right.”

Osborn credited Sasse with “a well-deserved victory.”

“I am proud that we ran a spirited campaign focused on my proven conservative record as state treasurer and my service to our country in the United States Navy,” he said in an email to supporters.

In the November election, Sasse faces Democrat David Domina, who handily defeated Larry Marvin to win the nomination.

Results from other competitive GOP primary races:

Attorney General
Doug Peterson: 34%
Brian Buescher: 26%
Mike Hilgers: 23%
Pete Pirsch: 17%

State Auditor
Charlie Janssen: 57%
Larry Anderson: 43%

District 2 Congress
Lee Terry: 54%
Dan Frei: 46%

District 3 Congress

Adrian Smith: 69%

Tom Brewer: 31%

District 1 Congress

Jeff Fortenberry: 85%

Jessica Turek: 8%

(Nebraska Watchdog is not covering the governor’s race.)

Contact Deena Winter at Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.

Category: Nebraska, Bart McLeay, Ben Sasse, Dan Frei, Lee Terry, Nebraska Senate race, Shane Osborn, Sid Dinsdale