State Sen. Deb Fischer’s campaign swept across Nebraska in the last days of the race and the feisty woman from the Sandhills earned the right Tuesday to face the formidable Bob Kerrey for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Fischer finished with 41 percent of the vote. Bruning had 36 percent and Don Stenberg had nearly 19 percent.
It was Fischer’s first run for statewide office. She promoted herself as the alternative to career politicians.
She went from 30 points behind in the early polls to a dead even with frontrunner Jon Bruning in the final week.
“We had amazing momentum the last two weeks,” she said after the votes were counted. “The wind is at our back and our party is united. I look forward to taking my Nebraska common sense message of cutting taxes, reducing spending, and creating jobs to the voters this fall.”
Minor candidates got the rest of the Republican votes. Pat Flynn, a Fremont businessman was the biggest winner of the bottom three vote getters, with less than 3 percent.
Bob Kerrey easily won the Democratic nomination, with 80 percent of the votes cast. His nearest opponent was Chuck Hassebrook (12%), who did not campaign after Kerrey entered the race.
Fischer took aim at Bruning and Stenberg, both of whom have been in public office for decades. Bruning, 43, has been the Nebraska Attorney General for 12 years, after serving six years as a state Legislator. Stenberg has held a number of offices, including his current job as Nebraska State Treasurer. He too has served as the state attorney general.
In advertisements, Fischer, 61, called them the same old bulls.
Bruning had a hefty campaign fund, with more than $3.5 million as of March 31. At the same time, Fischer had about one-tenth that amount. But Fischer got a key endorsement during the final days from the Ending Spending Action Fund, a Political Action Committee that bought saturation television ads for her.
Billionaire Joe Ricketts, the father of former Senate candidate Pete Ricketts, is the chief financier of the "Ending Spending Action" PAC.
Fischer capitalized on voter's frustrations with government and partisan politics.