Incumbent U.S. Sens. Fischer, Ricketts raise record funds as challengers lag

Sen. Pete Ricketts addressing the crowd at the Norfolk Regional Airport
Sen. Pete Ricketts addressing the crowd at the Norfolk Regional Airport(KTIV)
Published: Oct. 17, 2023 at 11:18 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) -Nebraska’s rare pair of U.S. Senate seats up for grabs in 2024 does not appear to be slowing down the fundraising of incumbent U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer or Pete Ricketts.

The two Republicans each raised over $600,000 in the third quarter. Both senators’ announced opponents raised far less, though one just began running.

Fischer raises $744,000

Fischer is seeking a third term. She raised $744,000 in the three months ending Sept. 30, posting her best non-election-year fundraising quarter. That pushed her campaign cash on hand to a delegation-best $2.7 million.

Fischer’s campaign has raised $1.84 million this year and has spent $588,000, mainly on fundraising, consulting and staff.

Her donors included Gov. Jim Pillen, former Gov. Dave Heineman, Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg and car dealer Mickey Anderson. Fischer raised money from fellow Senate Republicans, the American Israeli PAC, the construction industry and defense contractors.

Fischer thanked her supporters and said people were responding to her campaign’s themes of national security, border security, Nebraska agriculture and her “record of results.”

Ricketts raises $633,000

Ricketts, a first-term appointed senator who served eight years as governor, raised $633,000. His campaign called this summer the best quarter by any rookie senator in Nebraska. He lists $1.27 million in cash on hand.

Ricketts’ campaign has raised $1.84 million this year. It has spent about $565,000 on operating expenses, including on a campaign vehicle, fundraising, salaries and consultants.

His donor list includes railroad PACs tied to Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Home Depot, Chevron, Comcast, insurance brokers and Koch Industries.

Top individual donors to Ricketts included Mike Yanney, chairman emeritus of Burlington Capital; Charles Schwab; several members of the Lincoln-area Peed family that owns Sandhills Publishing; Howard Hawks of Tenaska and longtime wrestling magnate Linda McMahon.

Ricketts said he secured the backing of “many Nebraskans” and national “conservative leaders” by emphasizing “commonsense, conservative ideas and values” that worked for him in Nebraska.

Combining donations with funds from his joint fundraising committee, Ricketts outraised Fischer in the third quarter. That joint committee raised $348,000, pushing his combined total this quarter to $981,000. Fischer’s joint fundraising committee raised $110,000 this quarter, pushing her combined total to $854,000.

Members of Congress use these joint committees to raise money from people giving larger checks. Candidates dole out the money to their own campaigns, as well as to other candidates and party fundraising groups.

Both of Nebraska’s Senate seats are up for election in the same year because former Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., resigned from office early to accept the presidency of the University of Florida.

Challengers playing catch up

Omaha union leader and registered nonpartisan Dan Osborn, who is opposing Fischer, raised $55,636 in the two weeks since announcing his bid. He lists $47,035 in cash on hand.

Many of his local donors appeared to have ties to organized labor. Osborn is an industrial mechanic who helped lead the labor strike at Kellogg’s Omaha plant in 2021.

“We are working hard to make sure our message is heard,” Osborn said. “I’m just clocking in and getting started.”

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Glen Weaver, a Republican who opposes Ricketts, reported raising $5,172 from July through Sept. 30. Much of that was raised using conservative online fundraiser Winred.

Weaver’s report listed $3,587 in cash on hand. He had no immediate comment but has said he knows he faces an uphill climb against a member of a top donor family to GOP causes nationally.

Nebraska Democrats have said they expect to announce a candidate running against Ricketts soon.

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