Wright falls short on two signature requirements for Nebraska governor’s ballot

By: - September 13, 2022 12:26 pm

People enter a voting precinct to vote. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

OMAHA — Nebraska voters will see three names on the November ballot for governor, not four, barring a last-minute legal challenge.

David Wright of Ewing speaks to a Nebraska Freedom Coalition rally in Kearney in July. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

The Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Tuesday that David Wright of Ewing, a conservative who re-registered as a nonpartisan to run for governor, failed to gather enough valid signatures to get his name on the ballot.

Wright, reached Tuesday while moving cows, thanked his supporters for trying.

“We put our best foot forward,” Wright said. “We tried. We were just short.”

State law required Wright to collect 4,000 valid signatures from registered Nebraska voters, including 750 from each of the state’s three congressional districts. He fell short in two ways.

This month, he turned in 4,339 signature lines to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office. County election officials were able to verify just 3,712 of the signatures, officials said. That left him short of the needed 4,000.

After the 627 signatures were tossed, Wright also fell short of the required number in the 2nd Congressional District. Officials verified 747 signatures, three short of the minimum needed.

Nebraska GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen hosts a press conference in Omaha with Gov. Pete Ricketts (left) and Pillen’s former coach at Nebraska, Tom Osborne (right). (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Wright said he is likely out of time to challenge the rejection of signatures. The Secretary of State’s Office has to have ballots finished by Friday to print them for early voting.

Nebraska Republicans had expressed concerns privately about Wright potentially siphoning away votes from GOP gubernatorial nominee Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent who faces Democratic State Sen. Carol Blood.

Libertarian candidate Scott Zimmerman of Omaha is also on the ballot. 

Wright, a rancher and former Republican and newspaper publisher, is a longtime advocate of shifting Nebraska’s property and income tax system toward a consumption tax, a form of sales tax on goods and services.

His campaign raised eyebrows in GOP circles by selecting a registered Republican as his running mate on a potential nonpartisan ticket: Tom Dierks, a Lincoln social worker and son of former State Sen. Cap Dierks.

State law requires governor candidates running as nonpartisans to be registered as nonpartisan voters. The law does not speak to lieutenant governor candidates running as nonpartisans.

Republican concerns about siphoning votes were magnified by Robert Borer, an election conspiracy theorist who lost the GOP primary election for Nebraska secretary of state. He has said that he is running a write-in campaign for governor and that Pillen is not his nominee.

Borer had not turned in the paperwork or paid the $1,050 filing fee as of Tuesday morning to have his write-in votes counted for the election, the Secretary of State’s Office said.

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.