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Long-time Nebraska Republican officeholders lament direction of politics

January 13, 2019

LINCOLN - Two long-time Republican officeholders have noticed some unsettling trends as they leave office.

Republican John Gale, Secretary of State since 2000, says national interests now fund many campaigns, lessening the impact strong state political parties once had.

“So, what you have is an increasingly uniform voice that’s not necessarily representative of their independent states,” Gale tells Nebraska Radio Network during an interview in his office.

Gale first began working in politics as a law student, when he volunteered to help in Arizona Republican Barry Goldwater’s unsuccessful presidential run in 1964. He worked in North Platte as an attorney when then-Gov. Mike Johanns appointed him Secretary of State.

Gale says he had always been impressed by the strong state political party organizations. He says the creeping influence of national interests, along with the gerrymandering of Congressional districts, have allowed extreme views to sway both political parties. He laments the litmus tests which seem to guide the Republican and Democratic Parties now, forcing candidates to agree to a prescribed set of views.

Republican Don Stenberg served as both Attorney General and state Treasurer and says things have gotten nastier since he began work at the Capitol in 1979.

“But I think what’s changed over the years is instead of debating the issues on the merits there’s more and more in terms of personal attacks and basically even the politics of personal destruction,” Stenberg tells Nebraska Radio Network during an interview in his office.

Stenberg began work at the Capitol as the legal counsel for Gov. Charley Thone, serving from 1979 to 1983. Stenberg served as Nebraska Attorney General from 1991 to 2003 and is now wrapping up two terms as state Treasurer.

Stenberg acknowledges President Donald Trump has caused some division in the Nebraska Republican Party, with many Nebraska Republicans supporting Trump’s policy decisions, but wincing at his personal political style. Still, Stenberg says Trump has done more to push a conservative agenda than any president since Ronald Reason.

Both Stenberg and Gale say Nebraska has been somewhat isolated from the negative national political trends, but has not been untouched

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