Chris Janicek is the Democratic candidate challenging Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse for his Senate seat. He was recently asked by the state Democratic Party to drop out of the race after he made sexually explicit comments about a female staffer in a group chat. He is also under fire for allegedly using a racist slur at a party.
Janicek, 56, had the endorsement of the state party, as well as the Lincoln Journal Star, one of the most widely read newspapers in the state. He has been under pressure to leave the race, although he has said he has no intention to and has already apologized to the woman he described in a group sex scenario in the chat.
Here’s what you need to know about Chris Janicek and the accusations against him.
1. Janicek Is Gunning For Republican Ben Sasse’s Seat & Was Previously Thought of as The Democrats’ Best Chance To Flip It
Ben Sasse has held his Nevada Senate seat since 2015, after he won all 93 counties in the state in the 2014 mid-term elections, according to his government website. Janicek is gunning for his seat.
The Lincoln Star-Journal had kind words for Sasse in their latest round of editorial endorsements , in which they said Sasse has “proven he can navigate the sometimes choppy waters of Washington, D.C.,” and that voters were generally satisfied. Janicek, they said, was Democrats’ “best chance” at unseating Sasse, based on his small-business background and opposition to agricultural tariffs.
Janicek beat six other candidates in the Democratic primary, local ABC affiliate NTV reported.
“Nebraskans deserve so much better than they’re getting right now,” Janicek told the station. “You know this election that’s coming up, it’s not about moving further right or moving further left. It’s about moving our state and this country forward for all of us.”
The Journal Star gave Janicek their endorsement on April 21.
2. He Sent Texts In a Group Chat Describing a Group Sex Scenario With a Female Staffer — Who Was In The Chat — Saying ‘It Will Probably Take 3 Guys’ To ‘Get Her Laid’
"Do you think the campaign should spend some money on getting her laid?" Chris Janicek, the Democratic Senate nominee in Nebraska, wrote in a group text, referring to one of his campaign staffers. "It will probably take three guys.” https://t.co/pzroKUucrb
— Maggie Astor (@MaggieAstor) June 16, 2020
Janicek has already owned up to a series of sexually explicit, denigrating comments he made about a female staffer in a group chat with five other people, the Associated Press reported. The woman in question was part of the chat.
According to AP, who reviewed the texts, Janicek asked people in the chat about spending money on “getting [the woman] laid,” continuing to say, “It will probably take three guys.” He then graphically described a group sex scenario involving the staffer, before texting the group an apology and insisting they were a “joke.”
Janicek told the group, “I’m going on no sleep and a bunch of exuberant excitement and I think I was out of line now that I read my text back I apologize,” and called his statements “tasteless,” the New York Times reported.
The staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, was not amused.
“As a woman who stands up and beside other women, I can’t just pretend this didn’t happen,” she said, according to the Times report. “I cannot support your campaign after what you said. I have integrity, morals and values but, most of all I have self respect for myself and fellow women.”
She then quit and filed a formal complaint with the party, according to AP.
Heavy reached out to the staffer’s attorney, Vince Powers, for comment and a copy of the texts, but had not heard back as of Thursday afternoon.
3. He Has Also Been Accused of Using The N-Word At a Party Years Ago, With Corroborating Witnesses
Janicek’s problems compounded the very next day, however, when a former acquaintance told the Times that Janicek at a party 20 years ago referred to her by a racial slur.
Peggy Jones said that she clearly remembered Janicek calling her a “niglet.” She told the Times, “I was caught off guard. I was hurt. I was mad. I still remember how I felt.”
Three people corroborated the incident to the Times, either having heard it directly or observed how upset Jones was afterward. Heavy has reached out to Jones for comment.
4. Janicek Apologized For The Sexually Explicit Texts, But Denies Using The Racial Slur
Janicek told the times that he never used a racial slur against Jones.
“None of the story you presented is true,” he told the Times. “I do not know these women, not have I ever met them. I’m denying any and all accusations.”
He owned up to the sexually explicit messages, however, telling the Star-Journal that he had apologized via text and email. Janicek also claimed to have spoken in person with the staffer and that she accepted his apology, the outlet reported.
He told CNN that the texts were not sexual harassment, because he is an openly gay man.
He apparently has no plans to withdraw from the Senate race, though. Janicek accused the state party of using his comments as a “crutch,” to get him out of the race because his views are generally to the right of the party’s.
Sase voted for tax cuts where 83% of the benefit went to 1% of the population. He voted over & over to take healthcare & preexisting cond. away. He voted no to relief aid saying it was too generous. He votes no to women & human rights. He allowed 4 gov’t shutdowns. #nesen #ENOUGH
— Chris Janicek for Senate (@CJSenate2020) June 16, 2020
Janicek has been silent on social media regarding the allegations, last Tweeting on June 16 an attack on Sen. Sasse.
5. The Nevada Democratic Party Wants Him Off The Ticket & His Primary Opponent Has Restarted Her Campaign, But He Must Withdraw Himself by Sept. 1
The Nebraska Democratic Party on June 16 released a statement demanding Janicek drop out of the race.
They acknowledged that Janicek must file a form himself with the secretary of state for his name to be taken off the ballot, and that he said he told them he would not by June 22, despite earlier agreeing to that date.
Nebraska Democratic Party officials have demanded that U.S. Senate candidate Chris Janicek withdraw from the senate race after reviewing sexually inappropriate comments he made about a staff member during a group text among the Janicek campaign.
— Nebraska Democratic Party 💙 🌊 (@NebraskaDems) June 16, 2020
“Our Democratic Party has no tolerance for sexual harassment,” Party Chair Jane Kleeb said. “Our party will not extend resources or any type of support to any candidate that violates our code of conduct and doesn’t treat men and women with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
One of Janicek’s six primary opponents, Alisha Shelton, soon began a campaign pressuring Janicek to step down so the state party could award her the nomination. Since she was a primary candidate, she can’t run a write-in campaign, Shelton wrote on Facebook.
“I am deeply disturbed that this brave individual experienced sexual harassment in that manner,” Shelton told the Journal Star.
A second primary candidate, Angie Phillips, called for boycotts of Janicek’s business, the Omaha Star reported.
The second and third place finishers in the US Senate Democratic race, Angie Phillips and Alisha Shelton, are rallying around Shelton. They’re also asking for Chris Janicek to give up the nomination. pic.twitter.com/tRuhV3kS2x
— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) June 17, 2020
Janicek has until Sept. 1 to withdraw his name from the ballot, or else it will appear, according to Nevada state election law.
Heavy reached out by phone and text to Janicek for comment, but had not heard back as of Thursday evening.