Ben Sasse Wins Nebraska GOP Senate Primary

The state’s open Senate seat likely to go to candidate endorsed by array of conservative outside groups.

Ben Sasse, republican congressional candidate from Nebraska
National Journal
Andrea Drusch
May 13, 2014, 5:59 p.m.

Mid­land Uni­versity Pres­id­ent Ben Sas­se, a fa­vor­ite of con­ser­vat­ive out­side groups, won the Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate primary in Neb­raska Tues­day night, pav­ing his way to the Sen­ate and giv­ing his al­lies a much-sought vic­tory.

Sas­se, the front-run­ner go­ing in­to Tues­day night, earned 45 per­cent of the GOP vote with 12 per­cent of pre­cincts re­port­ing when the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race, less than an hour after the polls closed. Sas­se fended off a last-minute surge from bank pres­id­ent Sid Dinsdale, who had 25 per­cent as the race was called. Former Neb­raska state Treas­urer Shane Os­born, the one­time fa­vor­ite, took 23 per­cent.

Once con­sidered a dark-horse can­did­ate among the GOP’s choices to re­place re­tir­ing Sen. Mike Jo­hanns, Sas­se picked up en­dorse­ments from more than a dozen out­side groups in­clud­ing the Club for Growth, the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund, and the Madis­on Pro­ject. In a rare move, an­oth­er group, Freedom­Works, res­cin­ded its en­dorse­ment of Os­born and in­stead gave it to Sas­se, cit­ing Os­born’s per­ceived close­ness with Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell.

In a TV in­ter­view Tues­day, Sas­se said he would vote for Mc­Con­nell to lead the party in the Sen­ate.

Many of the same groups back­ing Sas­se have also lent their sup­port to oth­er con­ser­vat­ive out­siders, such as busi­ness­man Matt Bev­in in Ken­tucky and phys­i­cian Greg Bran­non in North Car­o­lina, but as their pro­spects fizzled out (Bran­non lost his primary last week and Bev­in is way be­hind in re­cent polling), Sas­se be­came their best hope to snare a Sen­ate seat this elec­tion year.

Those groups ac­coun­ted for nearly $2.5 mil­lion of the $3 mil­lion in out­side spend­ing that flowed in­to the state be­fore the primary, which helped tip the bal­ance of TV ad­vert­ising in Sas­se’s fa­vor to­ward the end of the cam­paign.

Sas­se will take on the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee, at­tor­ney Dav­id Dom­ina, in a Novem­ber race that’s ex­pec­ted to stay in the Re­pub­lic­an column.

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