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Video: Deb Fischer's acceptance speech
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• More World-Herald coverage: omaha.com/election
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LINCOLN -- It's clear Nebraska Republicans love New York City.
As a weapon.
The day after State Sen. Deb Fischer won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, state Republican leaders fired their first broadside against Democrat Bob Kerrey on Wednesday, continuing to hammer at the former Nebraska governor for living in New York City the past dozen years.
Gov. Dave Heineman said there was a clear contrast between Fischer and Kerrey that comes down to East Coast vs. Midwest.
“She has Nebraska values, not New York values,” he said at a Republican unity rally Wednesday morning in Lincoln.
In Omaha, Kerrey countered that Republicans were not acting very Nebraskan-like in criticizing a native son for returning home after regular efforts to recruit back the people who have left.
“It's really not the way Nebraskans are, recruiting people to Nebraska and say, by the way, you can never run for office,” said Kerrey, who held a press conference in Omaha.
The dueling press conferences came a day after Fischer won a stunning victory in the Republican nomination battle, toppling the front-runner Jon Bruning, who had led in polls for much of the campaign until the final week.
A bleary-eyed Bruning embraced a equally tired-looking Fischer at the Republicans unity rally a tradition held each morning after a primary election to unite the winners and losers behind the victorious nominee.
Bruning promised to help Fischer, though the night before he had questioned some of the tactics used in her campaign. A Super PAC known as Ending Spending and funded by former Omaha businessman Joe Ricketts rode into the race in the final weekend and dumped $250,000 on television ads that, in part, blasted Bruning on character issues.
Fischer has said her campaign had no role in those ads.
On Tuesday, Bruning made nice with Fischer.
“Everything is water under the bridge,” Bruning said. “I'm all for Deb Fischer. That's why I'm here.”
For her part, Fischer praised Bruning.
“He is a hard campaigner, and I look forward to him campaigning for me,” Fischer said at the rally, attended by Heineman, Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg the third major Republican candidate in the race also attended and shook Fischer's hand.
Heineman acknowledged it was difficult for Bruning and Stenberg to attend the event after being beaten by a candidate who ran in third place until the race's final days.
The governor said the unity event was called to send a clear message that the GOP target is now Kerrey.
Other Republicans who did not attend also congratulated Fischer, including U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns.
Fortenberry endorsed Fischer late in the campaign. He said he appreciated her grassroots efforts and her willingness to talk to Nebraskans on a one-on-one basis, as she knocked on doors and drove across the district.
“She focused on trying to get to know Nebraskans, listening to them, presenting to them who she was and her particular vision and did it steadily and put herself in a position to win,” said Fortenberry.
Johanns took issue with a national news accounts portraying Fischer's win as a tea party coup over an establishment candidate.
“She's not going to get tangled up in tea party and everything else,” he said. “I just think she's going to be a very common-sense, practical conservative and we need more of that here.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson also gave his analysis of the race. He said it was clear Fischer did not win the race, as much as Bruning lost.
Kerrey and Fischer will be vying for the seat held by Nelson, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
“That's who won Anybody But Bruning,” Nelson said.
World-Herald staff writer Joseph Morton contributed to this report.
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Deb Fischer's acceptance speech