Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz rally 1,000 for Ben Sasse in North Platte

April 27, 2014
Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz rally 1,000 for Ben Sasse in North Platte
By: David Hendee

“I'm here supporting Ben Sasse because I believe he has the courage to look in the eyes of the party bosses in Washington and say, 'I don't work for you, I work for the people of Nebraska.'''

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Two Republican rock stars and a cast of backup singers brought their act to Nebraska Friday for U.S. Senate candidate Ben Sasse as the state's GOP primary heads for a wild finale.

Tea Party favorites Sarah Palin, a former vice presidential candidate, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas rallied a crowd of about 1,000 to support Sasse in the May 13 primary.

“What we need in the Senate are folks who are willing to not just go along to get along. We need the fighters,'' Palin said. “That's why I'm here for Ben Sasse. He is the right person for this job.''

The band of politicos staged their show at Buffalo Bill State Historical Park, against the backdrop of colorful western showman William F. Cody's cavernous horse barn. Sharing the spotlight were Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and former Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr.

Sasse said he was grateful to have their support during the final days of the campaign. 

Palin, a former Alaska governor, said Sasse is the clear conservative choice in the election. 

Cruz, elected two years ago, said Nebraska Republicans have good choices in the Senate race but Sasse is the strongest conservative voice.

Cruz said the biggest divide in country is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between entrenched politicians in both parties and the American people.

“I'm here supporting Ben Sasse because I believe he has the courage to look in the eyes of the party bosses in Washington and say, 'I don't work for you, I work for the people of Nebraska,''' said Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

Lee, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, said Sasse has read the federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama and “knows how to fight Obamacare, repeal Obamacare and put you back in charge of your health care decisions.”

Sasse, president of Midland University in Fremont, is running for the seat held by Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, who is retiring. The other candidates are Pinnacle Bank chairman Sid Dinsdale, Omaha attorney Bart McLeay and former State Treasurer Shane Osborn.

The winner will face likely Democratic nominee David Domina, an Omaha attorney. 

Friday's rally drew people from across the state.

Cindy Weitzenkamp of Uehling, Neb., said Sasse's problem-solving skill is his greatest attribute and is needed in Washington.

Weitzenkamp attended the rally with friends Anita Bowman of Uehling, Deb Heuer of Fremont, Cindy Norman and Pauline Norman, both of North Platte, and Jo Wacker of Hooper.

“Where else can you go for free — this isn't a fundraiser — and meet two former state governors and two current senators, and possibly a future senator all in one place?'' Heuer said. “It's a privilege to meet people who are actively involved in our country.''

Jacob Anthens and Jacob Harmel, both seniors at Central Catholic High School in Nebraska City, drove to the rally with their social justice class teacher, Father Steve Thomlison. They left Nebraska City at 4 a.m.

Thomlison said students in his class attend rallies and debates and study issues in preparation for voting for the first time.

Cody established the North Platte ranch in 1878. It was here that he created his Wild West Shows that toured the United States and Europe. Orr was governor when she hosted President Ronald Reagan at Scout's Rest Ranch in 1987. 

Palin's endorsements are valued by conservative candidates. 

Earlier this month, she endorsed Nebraska GOP gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts. Two years ago, she endorsed Deb Fischer in the final week of a hotly contested GOP primary race in Nebraska. Fischer went on to win the Senate seat. Besides Sasse, Palin has endorsed Senate hopefuls recently in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Sasse said Palin — who wore a red light sweatshirt with a jeweled Nebraska “N'' to the rally — arrived in North Platte on Thursday wearing Oklahoma Sooners shirt after campaigning in Tulsa. Sasse joked that he considered postponing the event to investigate her character. 

Sasse said Cruz was supposed to wear a Husker shirt, too, “but he didn't keep his word.'' At that, Cruz flashed a Texas “Hook 'em, Horns'' hand sign to boos and laughter from the crowd.