Republican Bart McLeay knows all too well about mistaken identity and voter confusion in Nebraska's crowded races for U.S. Senate and governor.
With 10 Republicans running for two statewide offices, GOP voters need a scorecard to keep it all straight for the May primary. Are you running for governor? Who are you running against?
The confusion rests with the full field: Six Republicans are running for governor, while four others are running for the U.S. Senate.
By contrast, the Democrats have one announced candidate for governor, Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons. Another Democrat, Omaha attorney David Domina, is considering a bid for U.S. Senate.
For McLeay, the political abundance on the GOP roster means he has a name-based doppelgänger on the campaign trail: Beau McCoy, a fellow Republican from Omaha.
But McLeay wants to be a U.S. senator, while McCoy yearns to be governor.
“Yes, Beau McCoy and Bart McLeay sound a lot alike,” McLeay chuckled. “In fact, somebody this morning said they heard me on the radio. And, after a brief conversation, we concluded it was not me, but Beau McCoy.”
This is the first time in a long time Nebraska has seen this many primary candidates lining up to run for two high-profile, statewide offices.
The explanation is simple: This is the first time since 1978 when both seats have been open at the same time.
“People clearly see the odds of winning increase when there is no incumbent on the ticket,” said Kevin Smith, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The last time in recent memory that such a large field of candidates was in a race was in 2000, when six Republicans vied for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination after then-U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey decided not to seek re-election.
This year's crowded field of relative unknowns means voters and candidates will have to spend more time getting to know each other.
For candidates, that means more time on the road as they introduce themselves to Nebraskans. It also means more money will likely be spent on political advertisements as the candidates work to stand out from the crowd.
The candidates also face increased competition for political volunteers and key supporters.
“It's one thing for them to be divided two or three or four ways, but to be divided upward of 10 ways will be a challenge,” said Chris Peterson, a Lincoln-based political consultant.
The Republican candidates all say they have encountered their fair share of confusion.
It often comes in the form of voters who say they cannot support a certain candidate because they're pledged to another — but odds are, the two candidates are not even running in the same race.
“I had a guy who was insisting I was running against Sid Dinsdale. And I said, 'No, I'm not running against Dinsdale,' ” said State Auditor Mike Foley.
Foley is running for governor. Dinsdale is a Senate candidate.
“With 10 Republican candidates in motion for statewide offices, there is enormous confusion. It's going to be a while before voters sort it out,” Foley added.
But he and other candidates expressed confidence the picture will become clearer to voters closer to the May 13 primary.
Republican Charlie Janssen says he just spends a little more time on the campaign trail, going over the political roadmap.
For his part, Janssen says, some of the state's veterans are confused about who he is running against. Both he and former State Treasurer Shane Osborn served in the U.S. military, and both have been courting veterans groups.
“I've had people say, 'It's going to be tough for us to decide between you and Shane Osborn,' ” Janssen said. “I have to explain to them that although Osborn and I were both in the Navy, we're running for different offices.”
Osborn is running for U.S. Senate and Janssen for governor.
With so many candidates, money likely will play a larger role than ever. The candidate who has the cash to go up early with television advertisements and introduce himself to voters will have a huge advantage, said Paul Johnson, a national Democratic political consultant who ran former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey's unsuccessful 2012 comeback bid.
“The one who can get on early, and first on the TV screen, will have the unfettered attention of the voters, when nobody else is running ads,” said Johnson.
The large field also will make it difficult to handicap the race, especially when it comes to governor.
It's a race where candidates can win with 30 percent of the vote or less and where even the underdogs could play a key role in determining who wins.
For example, three of the six candidates for governor come from Omaha: Pete Ricketts, Bryan Slone and Beau McCoy.
If the Omaha candidates split the metropolitan vote, that conceivably could help one of the other three candidates secure a win.
“Even some of the marginal candidates — they're not going to win the election, but winning 5 percent of the vote could determine who does,” said Smith, the UNL political professor.
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1. He has attended three of the world's most prestigious universities, and at 41, he is one of the nation's youngest university presidents. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
2. He made his name in politics as a staunch anti-abortion activist in the Nebraska Legislature. He has wrangled with the governor in his current job. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
3. He was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer and appeared on “Meet the Press” in 2001 to talk about China, not politics. Another hint: He's a Navy veteran. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
4. He grew up in western Colorado and now owns a roofing company. He's the youngest candidate in the race at age 33. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
5. His father is a former Omaha surgeon, while he is an attorney and a member of Kutak Rock's litigation department. He has served as lead counsel in numerous complex trials. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
6. His family started a banking company that is now one of the state's largest home-grown banks. He supported the failed recall of former Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
7. His family owns the Chicago Cubs. His father is the founder of TD Ameritrade. And this is his second bid for statewide office. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
8. He is a tax attorney who worked in President Ronald Reagan's administration as a counselor to the Internal Revenue Service commissioner. He is the newest candidate in the race. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
9. He is a longtime financial adviser from Holdrege who has served in the Nebraska Legislature for seven years. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
10. He proposed to his wife on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature. He has made a name for himself as a staunch opponent of illegal immigration. Running for senate or governor? Answer.
1. Ben Sasse, running for senate
2. Mike Foley, running for governor
3. Shane Osborn, running for senate
4. Beau McCoy, running for governor
5. Bart McLeay, running for senate
6. Sid Dinsdale, running for senate
7. Pete Ricketts, running for governor
8. Bryan Slone, running for governor
9. Tom Carlson, running for governor
10. Charlie Janssen, running for governor