time for Senate campaign to look to future

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

The Senate campaign would be fun to watch if the issues weren't so important.

As a well-bankrolled underdog, it was politically expedient for Pete Ricketts to go negative early because, sadly, negative campaigning works.

Unfortunately, Ben Nelson's campaign has been pulled in a negative direction as well, despite what we in McCook know to be the candidate's natural reluctance.

So far, the attacks have been confined to lightweight volleys about property tax protests -- an issue most Nebraskans can understand.

But the Ricketts campaign and the Republican Party have pulled out a couple of high-calibre issues that Nelson will have to deal with.

For one, it's true that his re-election could help lose the Republican majority in the Senate. The White House's recent confirmation that it supported the Republican candidate in Nebraska undermined earlier Nelson ads replaying President Bush's support of the incumbent.

And then, Sunday, the GOP ran a full-page newspaper ad reminding voters that Nelson was governor when the state refused to license a low-level radioactive waste side, a move which eventually cost us $145.8 million.

True, part of that penalty went back to Nebraska utilities, so the cost wasn't as high as it seems. And, reports that Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel played a part in that "nuclear" strategy add to the political intrigue.

Plus, the way Nebraska was selected to host the nuke dump still sticks in our craw.

Nelson needs to respond to the latest attacks, but, growing up in Sen. George Norris' hometown, he knows Nebraskans have an independent streak that goes back to the state's founding. The incumbent is only the latest in a series of leaders who don't let party affiliation prevent them from representing mostly conservative Nebraska in Washington.

But there are many more important issues for Nebraska's Senate candidates to address before the voters head to the polls. War in Lebanon, the developing quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, drought, immigration -- all of them problems to be dealt with in the next Senate term.

It's time for the campaigns to look to the future.

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