OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Republican businessman Pete Ricketts expects Nebraska voters to notice a big difference between his current campaign for governor and his unsuccessful 2006 run for the U.S. Senate.
Ricketts said Sunday that he hopes voters will get to know him better this time because he won't rely on consultants from Washington D.C. and he'll apply the political lessons he has learned since losing to Democrat Ben Nelson despite spending millions of his own money.
"I'm going to run a very different race this time around," said Ricketts, who serves on the board of TD Ameritrade and runs a small firm that invests in start-up companies called Drakon.
Ricketts' father helped found the retail brokerage that became TD Ameritrade. And the Ricketts family owns the Chicago Cubs.
Ricketts is the fifth candidate in what is already a crowded GOP primary.
Ricketts plans to emphasize his business background, including the years he spent as TD Ameritrade's chief operating officer, when he talks to Nebraskans about the best ways to improve education and attract jobs to the state while strengthening rural communities.
Ricketts said the state needs to find ways to improve teaching quality and boost the performance of schools, but he didn't call for reforms limiting the power of public unions like Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker successfully pushed for in 2011.
"I would want to work with the teachers' union to come up with solutions to enhance teacher effectiveness and hold schools accountable," he said.
Ricketts said Nebraska needs to find ways to encourage entrepreneurs to establish companies here and keep them in the state as they grow. But he said the state also needs to make sure agriculture and the rural communities that rely on it continue to prosper.
Ricketts said Nebraska also needs to hold the line on taxes and spending. He also said public money shouldn't be used to provide benefits for people who entered the country illegally.
Ricketts' last campaign was the most-expensive Senate race in Nebraska history. Ricketts spent nearly $13 million, including almost $12 million of his own money, but lost badly to Nelson who spent about $7 million.
Ricketts said he thought relying on his own fortune would make him appear independent of special interests, but he acknowledges that some people thought it looked he was trying to buy his way into office.
"I didn't understand that when you raise money, you raise support," he said.
The other Republicans seeking to replace Republican Gov. Dave Heineman are state Auditor Mike Foley and state Sens. Charlie Janssen, Tom Carlson and Beau McCoy.
Two Democrats — state Sen. Annette Dubas and former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook — are also running for governor. Heineman can't run for re-election because of term limits.