With less than 72 hours left to go before the election, Republican candidates are hitting the road across the state, calling on supporters to get the vote out.
"The race is in your hands," Gov. Dave Heineman told the crowd of about 40 in McCook on Friday morning at Country Kitchen Rest-aurant. "What you tell your family and friends is the most important endorsement."
Gov. Heineman was joined by U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ricketts, 3rd Congressional District candidate Adrian Smith and State Sen. Mike Foley, who is running for state auditor. Also attending was Mark Christensen, District 44 Legislative candidate. Sen. Chuck Hagel, who had been scheduled to visit, was not present.
Heineman praised Christ-ensen as a "good fiscal conservative," and Foley as someone who "has the talent to get the job done." He cautioned that the Democrats would be in charge if a Republican wasn't elected in the 3rd District congressional race. Smith had the experience to win, he said.
Ricketts confirmed that Republican voters held the key to the elections.
"Grass roots is the way to win this race," he said, adding that "a change is needed in Washington," he said, referring to his opponent, Ben Nelson.
He warned of "a different landscape" if Democrats controlled the Senate. What's at stake, he said, are issues such as Bush tax cuts, which Ricketts wants to make permanent, illegal immigration and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice being appointed in the near future. "With your help, we can put Republicans back in charge," he said.
Later, Ricketts told the Gazette that he would be voting against LB126 and if elected, vote against the "No Child Left Behind" program when it comes up for renewal in the Senate. "I'm against more government intrusion," he said, who advocated instead to hold schools accountable. "That's why we have parents and school boards."
Adrian Smith said he was proud that he was born and raised in Nebraska and firmly pro-life. He said he isn't vague when answering questions, which he accused his opponent Democrat Scott Kleeb of being.
"I don't play both sides of the fence," he said. Smith said as a state legislator and former city council member, he has the experience it takes to face difficult decisions and that "my yes will be a yes and my no and no" when voting in Congress.
"We need straight answers in politics," he said. Smith believes that the death tax must be repealed or reformed to help small businesses and farmers, but Kleeb thinks the tax is okay, he said.
Calling it "the crunch time," Sen. Mike Foley said he and other Republican candidates are visiting as many towns as possible before the election. There are 200,000 more Republicans than Democrats in Nebraska, he said, "representing your values and concerns." He chided Kleeb for having "another answer every time," but with with Smith, "you know where he stands."
After their stop in McCook, the candidates were off to Ogallala, Sidney and Holdrege for more rallies.