Nebraska lawmaker to quit GOP and challenge Ricketts in 2018

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska state Sen. Bob Krist says he plans to leave the Republican Party and run against GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts next year as a third-party candidate.

Krist told the Omaha World-Herald ( ) that he'll seek signatures to put a new party on the ballot rather than run as an independent.

Nebraska law requires independent candidates running for governor to gather signatures from 10 percent of all registered voters. There were 1.2 million Nebraskans registered to vote in the 2016 general election.

Getting a third party on the ballot requires only 5,000 signatures.

The 60-year-old Krist, from Omaha, has been in the Nebraska Legislature since he was first appointed by then-Gov. Dave Heineman in 2009. He's barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

Krist says he wants to restore a "nonpartisan attitude" in the state. The state's legislature is officially nonpartisan, but some lawmakers — including Krist — have complained that it is becoming overtly partisan.

"It's divisive," Krist told the World-Herald. "It's counter to everything we need to do right now. I believe the emphasis should be on working together."

Krist said he also wants to restore a "separation of power" between the Nebraska executive and legislative branches. He said that separation has blurred under Ricketts' tenure.

Ricketts and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley announced in June that they'll seek re-election next year.

Ricketts' campaign declined to comment on Krist's announcement, saying the governor won't comment on potential candidates.

But the state Republican Party in a news release called Krist's announcement "another flip-flop," citing Krist's statements in May that he would not leave the GOP.

"If the definition of 'flip-flop' is someone who does what he believes, then I'll own it," Krist said.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

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