It sounds like a pitch out of President Trump’s playbook, as a Nebraska businessman tries to change the Republican Party from the inside.
Todd Watson ran four years ago as an independent. He said that experience taught him he needed to work with the party, but he faces an uphill battle.
“I don't have a problem with the establishment, but the establishment has a problem with me,” he said.
Watson was in Grand Island, visiting with local Republicans, something the senate candidate would’ve had a hard time doing four years ago.
“A lot of door are closed when you're an independent,” he said. “We were always a Republican growing up, served the party, even out in DC. But the whole message was the Republican Party has lost its spine. I don't think that's changed but I've always had conservative values.”
In 2014 he ran as an independent, getting about one percent of the vote. This time, he wants to give Senator Deb Fischer a run for her money.
He says he’s more fiscally conservative, citing Fischer’s recent vote to keep the government open.
“The Republican Party spends as much as the Democrat Party, it needs to stop,” he said of the vote that increases spending. He also challenged her vote as unconstitutional.
Watson comes from a small business background, in real estate and technology, as well as managing family farm land.
He’s back with the GOP at a time when the president shares a similar message
Watson said, “I generally like the president, but I'm not an owned guy. I'm going to go issue by issue and like I said, constitution first.”
He says he puts the constitution first, is a conservative second, and Republican third, with a message he says gets mixed support in the GOP.
“Depends which Republicans. The real people, the grassroots which my campaign represents love it. Absolutely. The powers that be, the modern day ruling class, they don't like it because it threatens their position in the power structure, their handouts for corporations,” he said.
On immigration, he said he wants to secure the border. In terms of agricultural trade, he said Republicans gave up their constitutional authority to have a say in trade talks when authorizing “fast track authority” for the president.
There are currently two other Republicans challenging Senator Fischer.