During his run for Governor, Charles W. Herbster poured $11 million of his own money into a largely self-funded campaign. When he lost in the primary to Jim Pillen, many may have wondered where Herbster would turn his attention next.
The answer came in late August, when Herbster started the “Nebraska First PAC.” Rod Edwards, a conservative political strategist and Herbster’s right-hand man during his gubernatorial campaign, talked with the River City Republicans at the Pizza Ranch in Omaha about the new Political Action Committee.
“We had grown this huge network across the state of supporters, volunteers, and right-minded conservatives who really wanted to change several different things,” Edwards said. “I think pretty much across the board in this room we share 90-95% of the same ideas and principles, but there has not been a statewide cohesion to promote those principles. And that’s what Nebraska First is going to do.”
First among those issues was increased transparency in the state Legislature, specifically ending secret votes for leadership in the Nebraska Legislature. According to Edwards, this is an issue with support “behind closed doors” among Republicans and conservatives, but it failed to pass by one vote when debated back in 2017. To push legislators to support this issue, the Nebraska First PAC created the Transparency in Leadership Pledge, which asks legislators to pledge to make their votes public personally and support a rules change to make that vote public. The PAC then contacted state senators and asked them to sign onto the pledge, giving them a deadline of Sept. 29, 2022.
As of Oct. 1, 24 of the possible 46 candidates have signed on to the pledge, 3 others have stated publicly that they support making votes public, and 19 candidates have either refused to sign the pledged or failed to respond. While it usually takes 33 votes to pass legislation (due to the filibuster rule), only 25 votes are needed to make this change on transparency. Edwards stated that he believed he had the votes to make all leadership votes public starting with the 2023 session.
Other issues brought up by guests during Q&A included changing Nebraska’s distribution of electoral votes back to a “winner take all” count and ending the nominally “non-partisan” nature of the legislature.