Will long shot in Omaha House race affect the outcome?

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

In just the last few years he’s declared bankruptcy, says he’s been attacked by a couple of guys who were “drunk and drugged” and topping his list of issues is cleaning up a Japanese nuclear power plant.

He’s also a player in the Omaha House race and come Election Day will have some say in the outcome, that despite admitting to Nebraska Watchdog that his win would take “an act of God” quickly adding “but I believe in God.”

Photo: Laird Campaign Website

Steven Laird

He’s Steven Laird—a self described computer programmer, blackjack dealer and school bus driver— and although he’s run for Congress before many, probably most, voters haven’t heard of him. And with good reason: his campaign (here’s his website) is all but broke. He tells Nebraska Watchdog he’s put just under $5,000 of his own money into the race and won’t be putting in any more so as to avoid filling out “a bunch of tax forms.”

All this raising several questions:

1. Why is Laird a “player”?

Because his name is on the ballot and any votes he gets are votes GOP Congressman Lee Terry and Democrat Brad Ashford won’t get—if the race is as close as both major parties think it is, Laird’s votes matter.

2. Why is he on the ballot?

Because he won his party’s May primary—the Libertarian Party. Laird beating Andy Shambaugh, yes that Andy Shambaugh, by a mere 24 votes—although the race wasn’t as close as it looked. All in all only 130 votes were cast: Laird got 77, Shambaugh 53. As for the general election at a time when many blame both major parties for the country’s problems, a protest vote—anybody but Ashford or Terry—is likely to land in Laird’s lap.

3. Who does he help/hurt?

Laird’s not saying but in an interview with Nebraska Watchdog he rejects the “protest vote” label.

Nebraska Watchdog: There are Republicans out there who are mad at Lee Terry but don’t want to vote for Brad Ashford. So they have a couple of choices: don’t mark the ballot or they vote for you—that’s a protest vote.

Steven Laird: I am a viable candidate.

Nebraska Watchdog: How can you call yourself a viable candidate if you’re not going to spend more than $5,000.

Steven Laird: It takes a lot of money to tell a lie. It doesn’t take any money to tell the truth.

Nebraska Watchdog: Who do you think you hurt in this campaign, Lee Terry or Brad Ashford?

Steven Laird: Excuse me, who cares about them.

Nebraska Watchdog: If you weren’t running who would you vote for, Terry or Ashford?

Steven Laird: I’d write my own name in.

4. So again, who does Laird hurt? Well the odds are he hurts Terry. After all:

  • Five months ago 47 percent of the voters in the GOP primary did not cast their ballots for Terry. Terry’s GOP opponent, Dan Frei, has refused to endorse Terry’s re-election.
  • Two years ago, in the Second Congressional District, Mitt Romney out-polled Terry by 7,000 votes. Most insiders believe those 7,000 were Republicans and GOP leaning independents—7,000 who, instead of voting for Terry, left the race blank.

Both those groups, who don’t want to vote for a Democrat, now have another option: Libertarian Laird, who is no stranger to GOP voters having run for Congress in the ’98, ’06 and ’08 Republican primaries.

Bottom line: A vote for Laird is, arguably, in effect a vote for Ashford and certainly not a vote for Terry.

How many votes?

It’s hard to say but know this: In that ’06 GOP primary Laird got 4,000 votes, in ’08 he got 10,000.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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