Republicans will fight to hold onto the 1st District seat of retiring Rep. Doug Bereuter. Former Lincoln City Council member Jeff Fortenberry will face Democrat state Sen. Matt Connealy in November.
Fortenberry beat out a crowded Republican primary race with 39 percent of the vote. State Sen. Curt Bromm of Wahoo had been second in contention with 33 percent. Bromm was thought by many to have the inside track when he announced his candidacy and was endorsed by Bereuter.
But Bromm was the target of television ads that criticized him for backing tax increases to shore up the state's revenue shortfall. The Club for Growth, a national organization that advocates reduced taxes and cuts in federal spending, shelled out $250,000 on the ads, which said "Nebraska taxpayers can't afford" to send Bromm to Washington.
The club, which also has been critical of subsidies paid for farmers, supported Greg Ruehle, who came in third place with 9 percent.
The victor, Fortenberry, stayed out of the fray and ran TV ads touting his family values.
To put the amount of money in perspective, The Club for Growth spent against Bromm in perspective, Fortenberry and Connealy had raised a total of just $315,000 between them through the end of April.
Both Rep. Bereuter and GOP Gov. Mike Johanns publicly condemned the ads.
Republicans have held the 1st District seat since 1967. Bereuter is in his 13th term but is resigning to become head of the Asia Foundation, a non-profit group that works toward peace in the Asia-Pacific region.
Neither of the state's senators faces re-election in 2004. Democrat Ben Nelson's seat is up in 2006 and Republican Chuck Hagel will run again in 2008. In 2002, Hagel was re-elected for his second term in a landslide over unemployed Democrat Charlie Matulka.
In the 2002 House races, Democrats fielded only one candidate - Internet millionaire Jim Simon, who lost overwhelmingly.
Also in 2002, Mike Johanns became the first Republican governor to win a second term in Nebraska in 46 years, defeating Democrat Stormy Dean by a more than 2-to-1 ratio.