KEARNEY, Neb (KMTV) — The wave of change that crashed through the Nebraska GOP this weekend started building momentum long before the party’s state convention.
It started with a contentious primary season that saw more attacks on Republicans by fellow Republicans than any other primary in recent memory.
It came to a head late last week when several duly elected delegates to the state convention were told they were no longer welcome because they weren’t supportive of the party’s leadership.
The folks at the convention disagreed and voted to allow every excluded delegate to return.
And that vote would mark the beginning of a new era for Nebraska Republicans.
“At that point, you could kind of sense the patriot spirit in the room and you knew things were on the up and up so to speak for that spectrum of the party,” said Patrick Peterson with The Nebraska Freedom Coalition.
For months now groups like The Nebraska Freedom Coalition have aired their concerns with the influence of Governor Ricketts on the Republican Party.
They believed the party was playing favorites with Ricketts endorsed candidates and silencing anyone who didn’t fall in line with the Governor’s wishes.
“Frustrations had been mounting for quite a while. We had done our part to give a platform to those frustrations and make it be known. You can look back at that over the course of the last year really. What we see in the new leadership is someone who is gonna take heed of what that part of the base is saying,” said Peterson.
An amendment was introduced after the delegates returned to change fire the party’s leadership.
By the end of the day the party’s Chairman Dan Welch, Executive Director Taylor Gage, two district chairs and six others would be replaced.
It was a monumental shift for the party that has dominated Nebraska politics for decades.
And the shift will affect more than just Republicans.
“What this does for the Democratic Party is it opens up a very wide path, yes with some republicans but really with the independents,” said Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb.
The party's new leadership is much more in line with the MAGA brand of conservative politics espoused by former President Donald Trump, something that Kleeb predicts will push undecided voters to vote blue.
“This has really given democrats the opportunity to show we welcome all shades of blue and all shades of purple and those that are frustrated with the Republican Party have a place in the Democratic Party,” said Kleeb.
Peterson doesn’t agree.
He believes the new change in leadership will only add momentum to Republicans up for election and says the new leadership is 100% behind its major candidates, including those endorsed by Governor Ricketts like Jim Pillen.
“Absolutely he is gonna receive support. It's not indicative of any splinter here its all unity from here on out. That's gonna be a focal point of the new leadership for sure, and it won’t just be in word but action as well,” said Peterson.