Husker fans will no longer have a chance to see their U.S. senator slinging the most Nebraska food at the most Nebraska of places — Memorial Stadium.
A recent confrontation with a protester during a game has led Sen. Ben Sasse to stop selling Runzas at Husker games.
A spokesman for Sasse said that, “in consultation with Runza,” the Sasse family decided not to hawk Runzas at games while Sasse is a candidate. The Republican is seeking re-election to a second term in 2020.
Spokesman James Wegmann described the incident: “A shrieking protester wearing ‘F*** Trump’ garb decided to scream endless obscenities at Ben and his daughter while they were vending at the home opener.”
“This whole thing is beyond dumb and shows how poisonous partisanship is spoiling healthy civic life,” Wegmann said.
The protester, 67-year-old Judy King, a Lincoln retiree, said she was angry because she and other sexual assault survivors flew out to meet with Sasse during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in September 2018. They met with a staffer but not the senator himself — and King has not been able to meet with him since, though she has continued to meet with staffers.
“It’s very upsetting to see him at football games selling Runzas when he can’t take half an hour to meet with women who’ve been sexually assaulted,” she said.
Wegmann said Sasse was in Nebraska when the group tried to meet with him about Kavanaugh.
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King, a Husker fan who said she’s been sitting in the same seat for decades, decided that if she saw Sasse selling Runzas, she would act.
She went to the game wearing a shirt that said, “Will trade racists for refugees.”
The senator showed up with the Runzas, and she pulled out her anti-Trump hat. She had hoped to tell Sasse that she was having trouble making an appointment with him.
According to King, he looked at her, looked at her hat, and said, “We’re not going to do this here.”
She said she then started following him and yelling, “What are you doing selling Runzas here while our farmers are underwater?”
Eventually, she said, stadium security and the police asked her to leave.
King, a registered Democrat, said she got more involved in politics after Trump was elected. She said she’s tried to contact all of her federal representatives and that Sasse is the hardest to reach.
She said she has tried to confront Sasse in public before, including once at the Lincoln Marathon.
She’s not the only one who tried to bring up politics to Sasse at the game.
Elena Salisbury, a 29-year-old social worker from Omaha who was on the same D.C. trip during the Kavanaugh hearings, also separately addressed Sasse at the Husker game. She said she wanted to talk to him about family separations at the border, and he told her that he didn’t have the time to get into a complex policy discussion.
Sasse’s Runza selling “feels very political, and I think if he’s going to do that, he’s got to see it as an opportunity to talk to his constituents,” she said. “You need to be open to conversations.”
Runza officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Wegmann said Sasse’s sale of Runzas has “never been about politics.” He said Sasse has been selling Runzas at the stadium on and off since 1983.
The Sasse campaign has promoted his Runza gig.
“Are you in Memorial Stadium right now? If so, look for Senator Sasse. He has a Runza for you! #GBR,” his campaign posted on Facebook in September 2015.
And the next month: “Senator Sasse once again hawking Runzas in Memorial Stadium for charity. Go Big Red!! #GBR #Huskers.”
He’s also taken other part-time work, such as driving for a ride-hailing service. “I like to work alongside Nebraskans. I drove uber yesterday. (For charity ...),” Sasse responded to inquiring Twitter users in 2016.
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