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Chris Janicek not backing down from Nebraska Senate race

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 2:51 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2020 at 4:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Embattled Democratic Senate candidate Chris Janicek said Monday that he’s not backing away from challenging incumbent Sen. Ben Sasse in November.

“First of all, I want to make it very, very clear that I am the Democratic party’s nominee for United States Senate here in Nebraska,” he said.

Janicek said he’s the best chance to beat Sasse in November and had harsh comments for the Nebraska Democratic Party, who he said sat down to discuss the matter of his candidacy following remarks he made about a staff member in a group text message — something he said never should have come to light.

“They had nothing to bring to the table, nothing to discuss other than they wanted to replace me with a third-place candidate,” he said, calling the situation “hostile.”

Janicek said he owned his mistake and apologized in public and in private to the staffer.

The candidate also talked about the Nebraska Democrats’ plan to replace him on the November ballot first with Alisha Shelton, who is not eligible to run as a write-in candidate; and more recently with Brad Ashford’s name floated as a potential write-in challenger.

The candidate also laid out some of the issues he sees happening in the state.

Nebraska has a voter registration problem, especially among Democrats, he said.

“The state we live in is a state that doesn’t vote,” Janicek said.

His team has been traveling to western Nebraska, where he said they support President Trump but do not support Sasse, Janicek said.

He said Nebraska Democrats feel abandoned and that he has been reaching out to pockets in the western part of the state to listen to their concerns.

“I don’t work for Jane Kleeb; I don’t work for her Nebraska Democratic party,” Janicek said. “I am asking the people of Nebraska to hire me. I am asking Republicans, independents, Democrats to hire me, to go to work for the people. They are my boss. I need to dedicate and show work ethic towards them.”

He said health care reform is his top issue, noting it was a personal issue with some on his staff and relating his own health care struggles, especially in paying the bills.

“Pre-existing conditions must be protected,” he said, noting Sasse’s voting record against the Affordable Care Act.

He also criticized the administration’s handling of the pandemic, noting that Sasse argued against the $600 unemployment benefit for those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

Janicek and Sasse are set to debate at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4.

Shelton’s supporters issued a statement Monday evening in response to Janicek’s comments, saying that several of his statements were inaccurate.

“To ensure that Nebraska voters have access to accurate information, the Shelton Campaign believes it necessary to correct these mistruths,” the statement begins.

“Team Shelton” then took aim at the lack of support for Janicek’s candidacy:

Chris Janicek does not have a path to victory. Without public support and resources from the Nebraska Democratic Party, it is impossible for Janicek to mount a competitive campaign against incumbent Senator Ben Sasse. Janicek claims that very few individuals within the Democratic Party have called on him to step down; however, over 3000 individuals across Nebraska have publicly demanded that he remove his name from the 2020 ballot.

Janicek has continued to demonstrate a pattern of abusive and unprofessional behavior. After publicly sexually harassing a campaign staff member, he refused to issue an apology affirming and acknowledging her experiences. He has pressured the recipient of his harassment into accepting a disingenuous apology and continues to blame her for his abusive behavior. Janicek’s inability to recognize the offensive and dehumanizing character of his conduct has led to his decision to stay in the race, despite overwhelming public opposition to his candidacy.

Nebraska Democrats support Alisha Shelton’s candidacy. In the Nebraska Democratic Primary, Chris Janicek received 45,829 votes. Angie Philips, who has since endorsed Shelton, and Alisha Shelton received a combined 69,417 votes. Since the Nebraska Democratic Party pulled its support of Janicek in favor of Shelton, her fundraising has increased by 463 percent. As Shelton has continued her voter outreach efforts over the last two months, she has listened to the concerns of Nebraskans across the state. Her experience working in both rural and urban communities as a mental health professional, particularly during the pandemic, demonstrates her commitment to Nebraska communities and her ability to lead during a national crisis. These are the characteristics that voters look for in a Senate candidate.

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