Challenger to ‘RINO’ Senator Earns Party Endorsement, Makes Commitment to Threaten Mitch McConnell’s Position

Challenger to ‘RINO’ Senator Earns Party Endorsement, Makes Commitment to Threaten Mitch McConnell’s Position

Get your popcorn ready, Nebraska Republicans: It looks like you have a good ol’ fashioned primary fight on your hands.

According to the online news site the Nebraska Examiner, the state Republican Party’s Central Committee has endorsed three challengers to GOP incumbents — including the biggest blow of all to the party establishment in Washington, a challenge to a sitting senator former President Donald Trump has labeled a “RINO.”

The vote came at the central committee’s meeting Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Sen. Pete Ricketts, a former governor who was appointed to the Senate and sworn in a year ago, will be facing party-endorsed John Glen Weaver, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, in the primary — assuming Ricketts stays in the fight after the party’s refusal to back him.

According to Ballotpedia, Ricketts has officially declared for the May 14 primary.

According to KLKN-TV in Lincoln, the feud between Ricketts and Trump dates back to 2022, when the then-Nebraska governor announced his support for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in his primary fight for re-election against former Sen. David Perdue, Trump’s preferred candidate.

Despite being branded a “RINO” by Trump in a media release — along with  supporters Chris Christie and then-Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — Kemp went on to win the gubernatorial primary and race.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen appointed Ricketts to replace retiring Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, one of six Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump in his 2021 impeachment.

Sasse resigned to take over the position of president of the University of Florida.

For his part, Weaver has made some pretty big waves since the Saturday endorsement by the party, promising in a social media post to support a replacement for Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell as the GOP Senate leader.

“As I travel the state, folks ask me, what’s the first thing you’re going to do as soon as you get into the United States Senate?” Weaver said in a video posted to X on Monday.

“And I tell them, the first thing that I’m going to do when I get there as your next United States senator from Nebraska is to not elect Mitch McConnell as the next majority leader of the United States Senate.

“Under no circumstances will I support a guy that makes backdoor deals with Chuck Schumer [and] Joe Biden, cannot secure our border, and [continues to] send money to Ukraine,” Weaver continued.

“That’s a no-go. I will not support Mitch McConnell. He does not represent Nebraska values. Nobody here wants to have open borders and money going to Ukraine. Pete Ricketts supports him. I don’t know why he does. Nebraska does not want somebody who’s going to make backdoor deals with Democrats.”

The military veteran has also made his opposition to “forever wars” in places like Iraq and Syria a centerpiece of his campaign.

According to the Nebraska Examiner, Weaver told the central committee on Saturday that he would support the House Freedom Caucus as a “Senate affiliate,” the Nebraska Examiner reported.

“People here are passionate about saving our country,” Weaver told the committee. “It’s not like it’s a bunch of crazy people who got together in a room.”

Ricketts did not attend the central committee meeting, nor seek the party’s endorsement. He spent Saturday at the Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln, the Nebraska Examiner reported.

The party’s backing makes Weaver a more viable candidate, at the very least. His previous political outing — a 2022 shot at Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District — netted him only 7 percent of the vote against GOP Rep. Mike Flood.

The central committee’s meeting was closed to the public. However, according to the Nebraska Examiner, internal vote counts showed overwhelming support among the party faithful for Weaver, with 103 of 144 votes.

Perhaps the outcome was unsurprising, given that Nebraska has seen a distinct shift in where the state GOP is going.

“Tension has existed between the state party and its top elected officials since Nebraska GOP leadership changed hands in the summer of 2022, from party workers loyal to Ricketts to populists loyal to former President Donald Trump and some former insiders who wanted to diminish Ricketts’ influence over the party,” the Examiner reported.

“One of the chief complaints from people supporting the leadership change was that the party under Ricketts took sides in some high-profile GOP vs. GOP primaries.”

Ricketts or Weaver, it’s unclear whether McConnell will take on another term as Republican Senate leader, given his frail health and several medical incidents, including freezing up inexplicably in public twice over the past year. That being said, new leadership is needed — and Pete Ricketts is the same old, same old.

He’s not going to take a stance against McConnell getting another term as leader — and, indeed, few Republicans are, despite the obvious evidence McConnell needs to go.

Whether Weaver is the proper choice is another question entirely, but the fact that there is a choice to begin with — as opposed to an establishment-appointed senator replacing another milquetoast moderate — is a refreshing thing indeed, particularly with a newly energized state party behind him.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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