LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska state senator who left the Republican Party to mount a third-party campaign against Gov. Pete Ricketts has switched parties again and will challenge the GOP incumbent as a Democrat.
Sen. Bob Krist was slated to make an announcement Tuesday in a news conference with Lincoln’s Democratic mayor, but the Douglas County election commission confirmed the Omaha senator’s party change on Monday.
Krist had been a Republican who was appointed to the Legislature in 2009 by then-Gov. Dave Heineman. He clashed with the party repeatedly over the years and announced in September that he would run for governor as an independent candidate.
Krist encountered several legal hurdles because of the requirements the state imposes on independent candidates to qualify for the ballot.
“Voters are fed up with this kind of constant partisan politics from Governor Ricketts and his party bosses that divide us rather than unite us,” Krist said in a statement. “I pledge to bring all of us together and to focus on unity and problem-solving, not ideology, to move our great state forward.”
Krist was not immediately available and did not return a phone or text message. Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said she plans to attend Krist’s event, but didn’t want to pre-empt his formal announcement.
Krist announced earlier this month that he would file a federal lawsuit to challenge a Nebraska state law that imposed the nation’s toughest requirements on independent candidates trying to get on the ballot. But he said he would leave open other options for getting on the ballot.
The Nebraska Republican Party seized on the switch in a news conference at the Capitol, trotting out a timeline that included Krist’s May 2017 statement that he would remain a Republican in a possible bid to challenge Ricketts in the primary.
“I think what we see today is more flopping around than a catfish on a sandbar,” said Republican National Committee member J.L. Spray, a former state party chairman.
Spray said Democratic voters should question whether Krist is truly committed to Democratic principles, given his recent party switch.
Two other candidates have already announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor: community activist Vanessa Gayle Ward and University of Nebraska at Omaha professor Tyler Davis, both of Omaha.