LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts cruised to victory Tuesday in the Republican primary for governor, setting himself up for a general election where he'll be a heavy favorite in the GOP-dominated state.
Ricketts easily fended off medical marijuana activist Krystal Gabel in the Republican race. He'll face state Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, who defeated fellow Democrats Tyler Davis and Vanessa Ward in the statewide primary.
In an interview, Ricketts pointed to Nebraska's low unemployment rate and pledged his push to lower property taxes. Despite his party's statewide advantage, he said he'll continue to campaign aggressively.
"We've been growing Nebraska, and we've got a great record to run on," he said.
Krist started positioning himself for the general election even before the primary voting ended. On Wednesday, the retired Air Force pilot will kick off a statewide flying tour across the state with his running mate, state Sen. Lynne Walz, who joined the ticket last month.
Krist pledged Tuesday night to invest more in the state's K-12 public schools, change the tax system to benefit working people, fix lingering problems in the state prison system and work collaboratively with Nebraska lawmakers.
"It's time for new leadership, a new sheriff in town, and I'm that guy," he said in an interview.
Ricketts spent the last few months touting his conservative credentials on the national stage. He made recent appearances at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Texas, where he stressed his support for gun rights, and at President Donald Trump's White House, where he and other Midwestern officials emphasized the importance of agricultural trade in farm states.
The Democratic candidates spent much of their time criticizing the governor and his policies. Krist knocked Ricketts for his recent state budget cuts to the University of Nebraska and his financial contributions to conservative allies who are running for the Legislature.