Dave Begley: Live from Omaha, it’s Keith and Bernie

Omaha attorney Dave Begley covered the appearances of presidential candidates in Iowa and Nebraska for us over the past two years. Yesterday Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders came to town. The Omaha World-Herald was on hand for local readers. Dave reports:

A national proxy political war is being waged in Omaha in the race for mayor. This might surprise Power Line’s national readership, but it is true.

The Democrats desperately want an electoral win after their shocking loss to Donald Trump in November. You know all about the millions of dollars poured into a House race in Georgia, but the Omaha mayor’s race represents a far better opportunity for the Dems. While Hillary Clinton could not even get 35 percent of Nebraska’s vote, she won within the city boundaries of Omaha. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 16,000 in Omaha. So if the Dems can turn out their people on May 9, incumbent GOP mayor Jean Stothert could be defeated by Democrat Heath Mello. The election is all about turnout.

The official theme of the event was: “Come together. Fight back.” The fighting back is obviously against President Trump and the evil GOP.

Minnesota’s own Keith Ellison spoke for 20 minutes. He was unimpressive. President Trump was referred to as “this guy.” He mouthed the usual Democrat banalities but he alleged that “democracy was on the line” because the Senate changed the 60-vote cloture rule for Supreme Court appointees in connection with the vote to confirm Justice Gorsuch.

Ellison then praised Nebraska for banning the death penalty. It is true that the Nebraska Unicameral did abolish the death penalty. After a citizen petition, however, voters restored it by nearly a 20 percent margin in the November referendum. That’s how direct democracy actually works, Keith.

Bernie Sanders was the star and he hasn’t changed from the first time I saw him. The crowd of about 5,000 true believers stood for his entire 35-minute speech. It was mostly a rehash of his losing campaign. You know the drill. Climate change, free college, single-payer health care, break up the banks, redistribution of wealth, class warfare, too much spent on defense, billionaire class rules America, overturn Citizens United, the GOP suppresses the vote, criminal law reform, rigged economic system, break up the big banks, tax Wall Street and paid family leave.

Senator Sanders claimed that the GOP wants to cut Social Security. False. He said that he would be introducing a bill establishing a national minimum wage of $15 per hour. Probably true.

The only change I could detect from last year’s campaign is that the Democrats intend to focus more on grassroots campaigning and organizing rather than catering to big donors. That might have helped in Wisconsin and Michigan, but we all know that the Russians stole those states for Donald Trump.

While Republican Jean Stothert has been a very good mayor, she hasn’t run a very good campaign so far. She didn’t get above 50 percent of the primary vote. Heath Mello presents himself as a young guy with a nice smile. His speech was substance free (he supports “unifying the city” and is running so that our children “don’t inherit a bad city”). He did promise to stand up against D.C. (viz., Trump) and also stand up for immigrants (sanctuary city status?). To my surprise I learned that climate change is an issue in this municipal election because “it is real.”

Mello’s campaign has made vague promises about the future and been very duplicitous about Mayor Stothert’s record. Mello is trying to pin the move of ConAgra’s headquarters from Omaha to Chicago on Stothert. The facts are that ConAgra made a big acquisition that didn’t work out, an activist hedge fund forced the CEO out and the new CEO moved the headquarters to his hometown of Chicago after he got big tax breaks from the Democrat mayor of Chicago. My view is that unless Jean Stothert goes full Trump on this Democrat, she could lose. Trump has set the standard for how to win and smart GOP candidates should follow it as best they can.

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