Witek Switches Parties

State Auditor Kate Witek, who in the May primary stood as GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Osborne's running mate, joined the Democratic Party this week.

"I got to the point where it seemed the Republican Party was only looking at controlling all the offices instead of looking at resolving all the problems challenging this state," Witek told the Lincoln Journal Star in a story published Friday.

Her defection gives Nebraska Democrats a statehouse officeholder, if only for a little while. Witek is leaving office in January as her second term ends.

She said she and the Democratic Party seem in tune, which includes "getting spending under control" and governmental accountability.

"People are starting to realize we do have to move toward each other and work together (on issues) like smaller government and lower taxes," she said.

Witek plans to be in Grand Island Saturday for the state Democratic convention.

"They seem very accepting and very open," she said, "and I'm going to take them up on it."

"We enthusiastically welcome Kate to the Nebraska Democratic Party," said Barry Rubin, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

"Kate will find a home here," he said.

A Democratic Party news release said she will address the convention Saturday.

An Osborne spokesman said the congressman might release a statement later Friday. A call to state GOP chairman Mark Quandahl was not immediately returned.

Witek, 51, won her first auditor term in 1998. She also had served for six years as a state senator, representing Omaha's District 31.

Until 2002, candidates for lieutenant governor ran independently.

Running to succeed her is state Sen. Mike Foley of Lincoln, a Republican. There is no Democratic candidate.

"I'm doing what I think is the right thing," Witek said. "I thought about it quite a while. I hope people will realize I'm trying to get things done. I'm kind of excited about it."

How will her anti-abortion stance square with the Democrats' abortion-rights platform?

"I'm not sure that is a party issue anyway. It's a personal issue," she said, pointing to U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who also is at odds with the national party.

"I'm sure I'm not going to agree with everyone in the Democratic Party," Witek said. "But if it's big enough for Ben Nelson and Mike Fahey, it's big enough hopefully for Kate Witek."

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