Nebraska’s Upper Class Dominates Elections

by Mark Honey

It may come as no surprise – Nebraska’s candidates for high office are mostly rich.

Out of the 10 contenders for Congress and the governorship, at least seven are in the top 20% of Nebraskan earners. At least three have a net worth of more than $1 million each. In Nebraska the median household income is about $51k/year, in most races both candidates are significantly above this median. That means for many Nebraskans, none of the candidates can understand or even relate to their financial situations.

The Rich List
By far, the richest on this list is Governor Pete Ricketts (R). His father, Joe, founded the company that would eventually become TD Ameritrade. The governor served on the board of directors until the family gave up their seats in 2016. In a 2006 business report, Ricketts estimated his net worth as somewhere between $45-50 million. Ricketts and his siblings now own the Chicago Cubs, which Forbes estimates is worth nearly 3 billion dollars.

District 1 Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R)is Nebraska’s second wealthiest on our list with a net worth of $11 million. He owns a minority share of The Shoppes at Piedmont, an upscale mall in Lincoln.

Senator Deb Fischer (R) comes in third. Her family owns the Sunny Slope Ranch, a ten thousand acre affair. Her net worth is estimated at $3.3 million by the Center for Responsive Politics.

If you’re concerned this list looks a little Republican, don’t worry. Democrats have some stacks of gold themselves.

Senate candidate Jane Raybould (D) and her family make their bread by owning 19 grocery stores, including the Super Saver chain. Raybould is the Vice President of B&R Stores, worth somewhere between $100-500 million. Because her personal income isn’t public, we can only guess how much she actually pulls in.

As president of the non-profit Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, Kara Eastman (D) makes $115k a year. That’s not nearly as high as the others on this list, but it’s still enough to put her in the top 20% of earners in the state.

Also included: Republican House members Don Bacon and Adrian Smith, with congressional salaries of $174k a year. Smith also owns a small self-storage company in Gering, Ne.


Because they are private citizens and do not have to disclose their income, the exact wealth of Democratic candidates Bob Krist, Jennifer McClure, and Paul Theobald could not be found. However, some information was available.

Krist was formerly an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, with an estimated yearly salary of $85k. McClure resigned from her job as a federal employee in order to campaign, but the average salary for her field is between $63k and $115k. Paul Theobald raises “purebred heritage breed hogs” on a farm in Pierce County.

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In summary, the finest candidates the Big Two parties can offer tend to be rich, or at least a lot richer than most Nebraskans. That’s probably not a coincidence. Neither party has been particularly nice to poor people over the course of their existences. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to change.

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