"I got to the point where it seemed the Republican Party was only looking at controlling all the offices instead of looking at resolving all the problems challenging this state," Witek said in Friday's Lincoln Journal Star.
After a month-long battle, first with Democratic activists, and then with the Republican Secretary of State, Kate Witek was approved to be on the ballot as a Democrat in November. What happened in between is the real story...
Meanwhile, State Sen. Mike Foley, a liar who consistently attacked Planned Parenthood in the Unicameral, and would continue to do so from his post as State Auditor if elected. But, despite that, the Democrats did not mount a challenge to his campaign, and came out of the primary with no candidate. Foley was running virtually unopposed.
Of course, Witek lost her race for Lt. Governor when Tom Osborne was defeated by Heineman in the primary. The Republican establishment won that day, and the people of Nebraska lost. So, for three months, Kate Witek remained silent. And, for three months, the Democrats still didn't have a candidate for Auditor. Then, in August, she dropped the bombshell: She was switching to the Democratic Party.
"I'm sure I'm not going to agree with everyone in the Democratic Party," Witek said. "But if it's big enough for Ben Nelson and (Omaha Mayor) Mike Fahey, it's big enough hopefully for Kate Witek."
The Democratic Convention a few days later certainly proved the first part of her statement.
"You have to be a Democrat for at least a week" to merit the party's nomination, Joe Higgins of Omaha sardonically suggested in opposing the decision.
Witek got the nomination from the Democrats that day. I voted for it, in large part because the opponents of her nomination felt it was better to have no candidate at all than to nominate Witek. She was certified as the Democratic Party's nominee, but the nomination was thrown out by Secretary of State John Gale a week later. After a court challenge led by Lincoln attorney and National Comitteeman Vince Powers, - who nominated Witek at the convention - and a petition drive that got Witek on the ballot for State Auditor, she was finally approved by Gale to be on the ballot as a Democrat in November.
But what is the lesson? The optimistic point of view would be that Nebraska Democrats are welcoming those who are fed up with the Republican Party. And, certainly in this state, where Ben Nelson is the only elected official, you can't say that Kate Witek is outside of the mainstream of this party. An NDP staffer remarked to a couple of Witek opponents sitting by me at the convention that a rejection of Witek would just show voters that the party is "just not big enough" for Witek.
But then there's the other side, one certainly not without merit. Chris Funk, a Planned Parenthood officer who said she had as much reason as anyone to fear Mike Foley as State Auditor, said she could not support her nomination:
"She represents the extreme right wing of the Republican Party," Funk said. "Shame on us that we couldn't find a real Democrat to run for auditor."
Then there's also Witek's criticism of more moderate Republicans like Chuck Hagel as recently as two weeks before she defected to the Democratic Party. So, the other side of the coin is: if Kate Witek thought that the Democratic Party was the right place for her, what does that say about us?