LINCOLN — Republican candidates welcomed Democrat Bob Kerrey to the race for Ben Nelson's U.S. Senate seat with open arms and sharp tongues.
Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Sen. Deb Fischer and State Treasurer Don Stenberg wasted no time in highlighting how different they are from Kerrey, who announced his bid Wednesday after saying only weeks before that he wouldn't run.
"There will be a very clear-cut choice for Americans," Bruning said.
In focusing on their differences from Kerrey, the Republicans highlighted some similarities among each other.
All three said Kerrey's liberal values and East Coast ties contrast with their Midwest values and those of conservative Nebraskans.
Fischer said in a statement issued Wednesday, "I'm glad that Nebraskans will have a real choice in this campaign. I'm a lifelong Nebraskan, wife, mother, small business owner, rancher and conservative, while Mr. Kerrey has become even more liberal during his years living in New York City."
Bruning, asked about Kerrey while at a Thursday press conference to kick off National Consumer Protection Week, responded, "Bob right now is in Greenwich Village having a latte, and I'm here."
The Republican trio emphasized their opposition to — and Kerrey's support of — government-run health care. Bruning and Stenberg also accented Democrats' role in the nation's ballooning deficit and the need for energy independence.
"I will offer a new direction for our nation," Stenberg said in a statement issued Wednesday. "That new direction will include the repeal of ObamaCare, substantial reductions in federal spending and regulation so we can create jobs, development of our domestic energy resources, and the securing of our borders."
Bruning also said the country needs a balanced budget, less foreign oil and smaller government.