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Election 2014

A Custer County businessman and cattle rancher running as an Independent for Nebraska’s open U.S. Senate seat says he has enough signatures to be included on the November ballot.

Jim Jenkins of Callaway said he plans to submit 5,500 to 6,000 signatures in mid-June to be included on the ballot and be a voice for voters fed up with partisan politics. In order to be on the ballot, an independent candidate must submit 4,000 signatures by Sept. 1.

Jenkins operates a family ranch near Callaway and is the former chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. He also started Wild West Inc., the company that launched the Whiskey Creek Steakhouse chain. More recently, Jenkins helped start the Skeeter Barnes restaurant chain.

After attending college in Illinois, Jenkins worked for 20 years in the business world in Boston, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, but returned to Nebraska to raise his family.

Jenkins said he is a fiscal conservative who would work to address the deficit, rebuild infrastructure in order to help develop business and industry and address tax reform.

Jenkins said his campaign is entrepreneurial in spirit, and he wants to focus on fixing what he calls a broken two-party system.

“We have a two-party system that is not working, that is actually limiting debate and preventing candidates such as myself and voters such as myself to have access to primary election ballot boxes in the same way as other voters,” he said. “The central tenant and theme of my campaign is that the political system is broken and it’s broken because the parties have broken it. They don’t govern, they kick the can down the road, they run perpetual elections where all they care about is getting elected and they don’t go out and actually govern.”

Jenkins, a Democrat until 2012, said he has always voted across party lines -- choosing the candidate he thought would be better suited for the job regardless of party. Now an Independent, Jenkins said he believes there are more than 200,000 Independent voters in Nebraska who are not fairly represented in primaries and ultimately in government.

Jenkins acknowledged running an Independent campaign is an uphill battle.

“It’s a challenge for any Independent running without party money,” he said. “In today’s climate money makes a huge difference. It really isn’t a fair fight when you have these large PAC’s who are mostly very narrow, partisan, self-interested, Washington-based groups whether they be on the Democrat side or the Republican side.

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“You see the most partisan people getting elected, and this true not only in Nebraska, but all over the country.”

Jenkins said if elected he plans to work to build a consensus that doesn’t currently exist in Washington in order to effectively solve issues that would benefit voters -- not just the party.

He said elected leaders owe it to voters to begin working together to do the job they were elected to do.

“Pretty soon Americans will wake up and understand that our country is being threatened not by outside influence, but it’s being threatened by highly partisan politicians on the left and the right who are putting their party ahead of the country,” said Jenkins.

Democrat Dave Domina, Republican Ben Sasse and Independent Todd Watson are also seeking the Nebraska Senate seat being vacated by Mike Johanns.

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