Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer has won the Republican nomination for Senate in a huge last-minute upset.
Fischer will face former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey in the race to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D).
In the GOP race, a statewide establishment favorite, state Attorney General Jon Bruning, went up against an ultra-conservative insurgent, former state Attorney General Don Stenberg, who was supported by the Club For Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint. In the end, Bruning and Stenberg fought so hard that they both lost.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Fischer has 41 percent, Bruning 36 percent, and Stenberg 19 percent, according to the Associated Press.
Bruning was the frontrunner throughout most of the primary — but he was caught up in attacks with Stenberg. Stenberg accused Bruning of shady ethics and insufficient conservatism — and Bruning shot back by accusing Stenberg of stalking Bruning’s 14-year-old daughter on Twitter.
Thus, in a pattern that sometimes happens in primaries, a previously third-place candidate can suddenly move ahead, thanks to a fratricidal race between two frontrunners. Combined with a last-minute wave of third-party advertising against Bruning and for Fischer by businessman Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, Fischer quickly shot up in the polls — from third place to eventual winner.
Fischer will begin the general election the favorite to defeat Kerrey, who is vying to reclaim his old seat in a state that has gone even further into the GOP column since he retired in 2000.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of National Republican Senatorial Committee, released this statement late Tuesday night:
“I congratulate Deb Fischer on winning the Nebraska Republican Senate Primary, and look forward to her election in November. The difference in this race couldn’t be more clear. Deb is a small business rancher, mother and conservative leader who believes we need to spend less, balance our budget and repeal ObamaCare, while her opponent supports bigger government and higher taxes. It’s time to restore fiscal sanity and enact pro-jobs policies in Washington and we can do that with Deb Fischer as the next U.S. Senator from Nebraska.”