Cornhusker clash: Nebraska sees nasty fight in GOP Senate primary

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Mr. Dinsdale dismissed the charges, saying Washington interest groups “continue to meddle in this election by spending incredible amounts of money trying to tell Nebraskans how to vote.”

“These groups are using lies to try and fool Nebraskans about who the true conservative is in this race. Their claims could not be further from the truth,” he said. “I am a lifelong, pro-life conservative who has voted for Republicans in every election and supported countless Republican candidates’ campaigns.”

But the Freedom Pioneers Action Network’s sudden interest in the race raises eyebrows in a contest that has drawn attention from groups that Mr. McConnell has vowed to “crush” this election cycle, such as the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth.

Mr. Osborn and his allies say Mr. Sasse, a Health and Human Services Department adviser in the George W. Bush administration, can’t be trusted to fight Obamacare. They say he called the Affordable Care Act an “important first step” in fixing the country’s health care problems.

Mr. Sasse said that line is being taken out of context and countered with an ad featuring his two daughters saying he ignores attacks and that they pray for his political opponents at breakfast every morning.

The Freedom Pioneers Action Network responded with an ad accusing Mr. Sasse of trying to hide behind his children.

Mr. Sasse’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the ad.

Justin Brasell, a former McConnell campaign staffer who is now campaign manager in Rep. Tom Cotton’s Senate bid in Arkansas but is listed as treasurer of the Freedom Pioneers Action Network, abruptly left that position Tuesday.

Reached on Tuesday, he insisted there was no coordination between the group and any of Mr. McConnell’s people. He did not say why the group was becoming active in the Nebraska race and did not respond to a follow-up phone message.

Meanwhile, the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that has angered Mr. McConnell for opposing Republican incumbents in some primaries this election cycle, released a 30-second television ad this week lauding Mr. Sasse for being a “proven fiscal conservative, who will fight tooth and nail to fully repeal Obamacare.”

The 60 Plus Association, a seniors group that has endorsed Mr. Sasse, has gone on the attack with a 60-second spot featuring three retired Nebraska veterans saying they cannot support Mr. Osborn, who has been jockeying with Mr. Sasse for front-runner status in the race.

Mr. Osborn, a former pilot in the Navy, had to apologize after his campaign circulated a fraudulent memo on Navy letterhead trying to defend his conduct during a 2001 incident in which he landed a Navy reconnaissance plane in China after the plane was hit by a Chinese fighter.

The incident turned into a major international crisis, and Mr. Osborn’s handling of the incident and the sensitive information and equipment on the plane has become a campaign issue.

“An officer that’s willing to stoop to something like create a fake memo just shows a total lack of character and is not someone that we need in the United States Senate,” retired Nebraska Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Carl Lorenzen says in the ad.

While not addressing the accusations, Mr. Osborn’s campaign dismissed the ad in a statement as “disrespectful to every single American who has ever worn the uniform.”

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