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May 18, 2011


Just a few more questions for the GOP party chair

by Deena Winter

I was eager to read Don Walton’s Sunday story on GOP state party chair Mark Fahleson — thinking he might have something interesting to say about the Republicans’ recent poor showing in the Lincoln spring election.

GOP chairman Mark Fahleson

I was disappointed. Not a word. It was more of a profile of Fahleson. Now I love The Don — he is an institution and a sweet guy — but I think he should have asked at least one question about the election results. So I shot Fahleson an email with some “questions I would have asked,” and he was kind enough to answer them. Here they are:

What do you think of the municipal election results in Lincoln? It seems as though the Democrats have figured out how to win almost any election in Lincoln.

Since I became chair of the Nebraska Republican Party in 2009, we have held a series of strategic planning sessions to establish specific, measurable and achievable goals for the state party. We are a state party, not a municipal party or county party. At no time have the Lincoln municipal elections appeared anywhere in our top priorities since I have been chair.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that replacing Sen. Ben Nelson is goal number one for the NEGOP between now and November 2012. That’s our focus, and that’s where we are spending our time, energy and resources.

Why did the GOP contribute so little to (Republican mayoral candidate Tammy) Buffington’s campaign? I believe I saw just a $250 donation or so?

See my answer above. Again, Lincoln municipal races were not a priority for the state Republican Party. Rest assured we’ll be spending a tad bit more than that working to replace Sen. Nelson.

If it was because she was not considered a good investment, why didn’t the party find a better candidate?

I, in coordination with Lancaster County GOP officials, met with several potential candidates for mayor, city council and school board (which is not uncommon — we do the same in other communities and counties as well). Candidates choose to run for personal reasons, and that’s the way it should be. If they don’t have a personal passion to run and the proverbial “fire in the belly,” then frankly I don’t want them running.
When I was Lancaster County Republican Chair I helped recruit guys like Sen. Colby Coash and Bob Swanson to run for state Legislature here in Lincoln. Both were passionate about their races and the issues that were important to them and their constituents. Colby won, Bob lost, but both are in the top tier of candidates I have had the pleasure to help recruit. I am always looking for my candidates like them, who are willing to make the personal commitment and sacrifice to win, even if at the end of the day they are like Bob Swanson and come up a few votes short.

Overall, it appears the Dems had much more money to spend on the local races — is that the case or does the state Republican Party just choose to spend its money on other races? If so, why?

It’s cyclical, and it wasn’t a priority for us in 2011.

Do you see any threat that many of the Dems being elected on the local level in Lincoln and Omaha will some day be strong candidates for statewide and congressional offices?

No. The Democrats who are getting elected in Omaha and Lincoln simply are unelectable statewide. The one Democrat who has successfully run statewide in recent years is Ben Nelson, and that will come to an end with the November 2012 elections. He was able to pull the wool over many Nebraskans’ eyes by pretending he was a moderate or conservative when he is back here in Nebraska while siding with Harry Reid and the liberal Democrats in Washington. The gig is up thanks to his Cornhusker Kickback and decisive vote on ObamaCare. Simply put, dust has gathered on the Democrat bench, and I do not forsee any threat.

Why wouldn’t Lincoln and Omaha city elections be a focus for the party — given the fact that people like Jim Suttle, Jeff Fortenberry and Mike Johanns all started out on the city level?

Name the last Democrat who won statewide after ascending from local office? Voting records help Republicans in Nebraska, not Democrats.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dave Fall
    May 18 2011

    Funny Deena but looking at those numbers says low interest caused low turn out.often plaques cities as they are in growth and expansion cycles. Alas while those who can create controversy are still able they usually choose to, “dine while the food is still warm”.

  2. Jeff Poley
    May 18 2011


    The Nebraska Democrats should be feeling pretty good knowing that the Republicans have such a clueless head of their party.


    • Roger C
      May 18 2011

      Didn’t you chide my once about insulting someone on here? Wait, it’s OK because you are using your “real” name!

  3. Gene
    May 18 2011

    Wow. What happens if Nelson wins?

  4. Huskerfan
    May 18 2011

    I think Mark Fahleson greatly underestimates the amount of money Senator Nelson can raise from out of state, and also how little Bruning has ever really been challenged. I don’t believe Bruning has ever had to run a seriously contested race, too bad for him he’ll get his training wheels on such a large race and his rookie mistakes will be evident.

  5. Dean
    May 18 2011

    It’s hilarious, look at and how much noise the Republicans made about the Suttle recall. They sure did seem to be very actively engaged in that, even though in the end it was a failure. Now they wash their hands of Lincoln city politics, the same way I quit watching sports when my team is lousy. Deena was right on when she said how many elected officials ascended from city government.

  6. michaeljames4laa
    May 18 2011

    Great Q&A, thanks Deena and Mark. I will add Mark and the diehard republicans better watch out. The Dem machine is running full steam in Lincoln, the Dem pipeline and experience are building fast in Lincoln. I thought I read somewhere all politics are local.

  7. chanda leer
    May 19 2011

    The Republican Party is broken, mainly due to lack of any leadership, as this interview proves. They have lost sight of who their constituency is, and thus will continue to lose elections until they give up their elitist (white male?) mentality. Funny how he didn’t answer the last question. A real successful strategic planning session would make the local elections the real “achievable” goals! Who is he kidding?!! Even newcomers to politics know that all politics ARE local.

    • LAW
      May 21 2011

      With all due respect chanda leer, elitist (white male) is insulting. I am a white male as are most males in Nebraska and I would NEVER follow the “logic” and “strategy” of the Nebraska Republican party. Stick with elitist.

  8. Dan Bretta
    May 19 2011

    So the Nebraska GOP is spending all of their money to get rid of the one guy who votes exactly like them?

  9. ChilliMango
    May 20 2011

    I was wondering why I haven’t been voting along party lines. Thank you Mark Fahleson or clearing that up.
    Thanks for asking Deena!

  10. LAW
    May 21 2011

    It sounds to me like Mark is saying “We are awesome, just ignore our record”.

    I was told the reason the GOP didn’t back Buffington is because they wanted to make sure Beutler didn’t run for Governor or Congress and the best way to keep him from doing that was to keep him mayor of Lincoln. Now that is a great strategy…

  11. Chris
    May 21 2011

    A big part of why the Democrats are doing so well in Lincoln is because they got rid of Barry Rubin and Ian Russell. Now the people running the show are the same people who got Don Wesley, Colleen Sang, and Chris Beutler elected in the first place.

  12. Jane H Kinsey
    Jun 7 2011

    Mark Fahleson leaves much to be desired as a Republican leader. When I ran in Lincoln before he came on the scene, potential candidates were appreciated even if they were not among the chosen few. I can’t believe how Lancaster County Republican party has given up the ship. Fahleson lives in denial and is arrogant to think that local politics don’t make a difference. He may ruin the Party yet.


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