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Nebraska GOP aims to freshen up its image

The would-be chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party plans to put a hip and happening face on the GOP.

Mark Fahleson, 41, of Lincoln says he will emphasize registering young people and using new technology to reach voters.

He also says the state GOP will spend time shoring up its base in the 2nd Congressional District, where Democrat Barack Obama peeled off one electoral vote last fall.

Mark Fahleson"Certainly, we as a party have some challenges. While the state party did relatively well this last cycle — compared to the national scene — there are some things we can work on," Fahleson said.

Fahleson will stand for election Saturday in Fremont during a meeting of the party's state central committee.

So far, Fahleson is the only candidate in the race to succeed Chairman Mark Quandahl. Others may be nominated today, but they would have a tough time running against the man who has the backing of some of the state's top Republican elected officials.

Fahleson has been endorsed by Gov. Dave Heineman, who was one of the first to urge him to run. Attorney General Jon Bruning and U.S. Rep. Lee Terry also support Fahleson.

A longtime Republican, Fahleson is an attorney with Rembolt Ludtke in Lincoln, specializing in employment law.

Quandahl, 47, an Omaha attorney, decided not to seek re-election after serving four years in the post.

A former state legislator, Quandahl was the head of the party when two GOP titans — former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne and Heineman — duked it out in a primary for the gubernatorial nomination.

That battle, Quandahl said, was one of his toughest challenges. Quandahl said he respected and admired both men and scrupulously maintained neutrality throughout the race.

In the end, Heineman won the nomination and the general election.

"As far as being an uncomfortable time to be chairman, that was probably pretty high on the list," Quandahl said.

Quandahl said one of the high points in his tenure came when he presided over the Nebraska delegation during last year's national Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.

It was a "kick," Quandahl said.

He said he was proud of how Republican candidates in Nebraska fared in the fall election, compared with their counterparts in other areas of the nation.

Republican Mike Johanns strolled to an easy victory in his open-seat Senate race against Democrat Scott Kleeb, while Terry withstood a strong challenge from Democrat Jim Esch.

In addition, the GOP maintained its majority lead in the Nebraska Legislature.

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