Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska made it official: He wants to spend another six years in the Senate.
He kicked off his reelection bid Monday at the Millard Airport in Omaha with several of his fellow top Republican officials, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Govs. Dave Heineman and Kay Orr, Reps. Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.
Sasse struck a tone similar to that of his first election bid, juxtaposing folksy stories with sweeping proclamations about the nature of liberty and the philosophical underpinnings of American government.
“America is an experiment,” he said. “America is an idea. What we said in 2014 is just as true now.”
He also added some new themes, saying the 2020 elections are “a choice between civics and socialism.”
He criticized Nebraska Democrats for tying him and Bacon to the recent mass shootings in a press release.
“That’s weird, that’s sick, that’s not what Nebraskans believe,” he said.
He took no questions from the press.
He was one of the leaders of the “Never Trump” movement before the 2016 election, saying he didn’t want to see either Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton win the presidential election.
Following Trump’s election, Sasse criticized the president, sometimes forcefully. He has condemned Trump’s actions on trade in particular.
But Sasse, as a Judiciary Committee member, has been a strong proponent of Trump’s judicial appointments, and the senator has been less vocal about the president lately.
Still, that criticism of Trump has drawn a primary opponent, businessman Matt Innis of Lancaster County. At least two Democrats — Chris Janicek, a businessman, and Angie Phillips, who has worked as a mental health advocate — plan to run for their party’s nomination.
Another rumored primary opponent had been Ricketts — but the governor has made clear and reiterated Monday that he intends to support Sasse.
“Ben Sasse is a real Nebraska conservative,” Ricketts said. “He’s been fighting for us in Washington, D.C. And now it’s up to us to fight for him.”
Sasse briefly mentioned Trump, getting cheers for saying the Senate should confirm his “really great judicial nominees.”
Sasse pointed to several problems that he says are a result of a “crisis of civics, crisis of community,” including the opioid epidemic and a lack of support for the First Amendment.
He also pointed to recent mass shootings, which he attributed to fatherlessness and a “surging racial hatred” in people who he said don’t understand the American idea.
“The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines,” Sasse said in a follow-up email to supporters.
Sasse sometimes made people wonder if he would run again by painting a bleak picture of Capitol Hill and the way it works since he arrived there in 2015.
But by last month, signs of Sasse’s intention to run again included raising almost $3 million in campaign funds and supporting candidates in races across the state through his political action committee.