Nebraska rancher-farmer to run as independent candidate for U.S. Senate -
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 7:46 am / Updated at 5:16 pm
Nebraska rancher-farmer to run as independent candidate for U.S. Senate

Democrats will get a non-Republican choice in the Nebraska U.S. Senate race, but it won't be a Democrat.
Jim Jenkins, a Callaway rancher-farmer, will run as an independent candidate, without either an “R” or a “D” behind his name.

Jenkins, 56, is the fifth candidate to run for the seat currently held by outgoing U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, a Republican. The other four candidates are all Republicans. So far, no Democrat has expressed interest in the race.

Jenkins says he believes a majority of Nebraskans are tired of the bitter partisan battles that grip Washington, D.C., especially in the wake of the recent partial federal shutdown. And he said he believes a majority of Nebraskans are “moderates,” who would be willing to give an independent-minded candidate a chance.

“Americans are not nearly as divided as cable TV and the political class would have us believe,” Jenkins said. “The vast majority of us are somewhere in the sensible center.”

Jenkins was considered a top-tier Democratic prospect until two years ago, when he officially switched his party affiliation to independent. Shortly after his party switch, Jenkins considered running for the U.S. Senate. But he was forced to abandon the idea after he learned about a state law that prohibited candidates from running for office in the same year in which they changed their party affiliation.

Jenkins said that throughout his adult life, he has always voted for both Democratic and Republican candidates.

In 2008, he said, he voted for Barack Obama for president because he believed that the Democrat would “govern more from the center” and would work to find bipartisan solutions to the nation's rising debt.

Four years later, he said he cast a vote for Republican Mitt Romney because he had “lost confidence” in Obama's commitment to tackling fiscal issues. He said his turning point with Obama came when the president backed away from a bipartisan plan to address the nation's fiscal problems put forth by the so-called Simpson-Bowles Commission.

The commission was named after its co-chairmen: Democrat Erskine Bowles and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming.

“My number one priority is fixing the debt,” said Jenkins. “When he (Obama) backed away from it, I decided I would vote for a business person who seemed to have more skills for negotiation.”

Jenkins said he realizes he will face an uphill battle, but he said he wouldn't run if he didn't think he had a shot. He noted that 20 percent of Nebraskans identify themselves as independent.

“I welcome Republicans, Democrats and independents, everyone who is fed up with the broken system in Washington, to join my campaign,” Jenkins said.

Currently, only two independents serve in the U.S. Senate and both come from Democratic-leaning states: Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.

Jenkins' first hurdle will be getting on the ballot.

Under state law, his name will not appear on the May primary ballot. That election is reserved for candidates seeking a specific party's nomination.

In order to get on the November ballot, Jenkins will have to collect more than 4,000 signatures.

Jenkins was raised in Custer County, but left Nebraska for about 20 years to attend school and work in the restaurant and business world in Boston, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.

He returned to Nebraska in 1996, developing a steakhouse chain known as Whiskey Creek. He sold that company a decade ago.

He also helped to found Skeeter Barnes restaurants, and currently serves on the company's board of directors.

Jenkins is part owner of a ranch and farm operation near Callaway.

Jenkins said he would use some of his own money to finance his race, but he would not rely solely on his personal checkbook to pay for his campaign.

“This has really got to be a campaign that's about a concept and that's much bigger than me,” Jenkins said.

Contact the writer: Robynn Tysver    |   402-444-1309    |  

Robynn is's elections writer. She's covered presidential politics in Iowa's caucuses, and gubernatorial and Senate races in Nebraska.

New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
< >
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »