OMAHA — Just like their counterparts around the country, Republicans in Nebraska anticipated a surge of enthusiasm on Election Day from Republican voters, which they hoped would drown out the voices of their Democratic opponents.
In spite of having a disadvantage in voter registration by 260,000 people, Republicans were nevertheless successful in winning most of the state’s elections in this state. However, the “red wave” that was forecast did not help them as much as they had hoped to in gaining ground.
One of the reasons for this was the political climate regarding abortion in other countries. According to political commentators, the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court in the Dobbs case inspired a greater number of Democrats to cast their ballots than in a regular election held in the off year.
A continued schism among the Republican party regarding the degree of allegiance that their party should have to former President Donald Trump was another aspect.
After activists committed to Trump’s agenda won control of the Nebraska Republican Party, Republicans remained deeply divided. Since there was a change in party leadership in July, there has been a significant decline in the amount of money donated to the party.
This past fall, a significant number of the state’s most generous Republicans gave their money to organizations that made independent expenditures as well as the Douglas County Republican Party.
“Tuesday’s elections were really a mixed bag,” said Rod Edwards, a Republican political consultant in Nebraska. “Tuesday’s election results were a mixed bag.” “The biggest story, in my opinion, is the lost opportunity on the part of Republicans.”
The Democratic Party of Nebraska suffered defeats in both the gubernatorial and congressional races, which prevented them from preventing a filibuster-proof majority for Republicans in the Nebraska Legislature.
Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, stated that the party has to increase voter participation in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, each of which had a turnout of 53% of eligible voters in 2022, and strive to equal the higher turnout in Lancaster County, which was 56%. The three counties contain some of the most significant concentrations of Democrats in the state.
The following are some key takeaways from the outcomes of the general election:
After a contentious primary in May, Republican voters ultimately decided to support Jim Pillen for governor. In the main election, Pillen was able to secure a bigger percentage of the vote than either Governor Pete Ricketts in 2014 or Governor Pete Ricketts in 2018. State Senator Carol Blood, a Democrat from Bellevue, garnered 36% of the vote.
In point of fact, Pillen received the largest percentage of the vote of any first-time candidate for governor since at least the 1970s. Ricketts was re-elected with 59% of the vote in 2018, which is an increase from the 57% he received in 2014.
Dave Heineman, who is now the former governor of Nebraska, won his first election by a larger majority in 2006, but he had already been serving in the role since 2005, when then-Gov. The position of United States Secretary of Agriculture has been given to Mike Johanns.
Some political analysts had anticipated that Pillen, a hog farmer from Columbus, would have to pay a price this fall from followers of Falls City agribusinessman Charles Herbster, who withdrew his endorsement after Pillen finished in second place in the primary.
However, that didn’t come to fruition. After neglecting to debate his opponents during either the primary or general election campaigns, Pillen did not suffer any backlash from the voters.
John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, stated that the state of Nebraska looks to have bucked the national trend toward more balanced results and appears to be becoming more conservative.
Hibbing acknowledged that some of material was contributed by Pillen. “Part of it is merely due to changes in voter registrations over the course of time.”
There has been an ongoing increase in the number of people registered as Republicans in the state of Nebraska, which may have played a role in Pillen’s successful campaign.
Write-in candidates David Wright of Ewing and Robert Borer of Lincoln campaigned to give unsatisfied Republicans additional options in the contest for governor. Several observers expected more from the two candidates, and they were disappointed when they did not receive more support.
The combined votes that Wright and Borer received were only 0.87 percent, which is a number so low that the State Canvassing Board and the Secretary of State’s Office decided not to count how the votes were distributed between the two candidates.
In Nebraska’s election for the U.S. Senate in 2020, Omaha human rights activist Preston Love Jr. was the last write-in candidate to get enough votes to count, receiving 6.3% of the vote. He was the last write-in contender to secure enough votes to count.
That contest for the Senate seat was won by the U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, is relocating to Gainesville, Florida, in order to take over as the new president of the University of Florida.
After hiring staff and a Cabinet, Pillen’s first big assignment as governor will likely be deciding whether to appoint Ricketts, his most prominent political supporter, to succeed Sasse in the Senate. This will be in addition to hiring staff and a Cabinet.
Offices that cover the state
It’s possible that Democrats have wasted an opportunity by choosing not to run candidates in a few different state races.
A shortage of candidates for the offices of secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, and state auditor plagued the state’s second largest political party.
Paul Landow, a political scientist emeritus from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, argued that voters who desired another choice from the major parties weren’t given one, and that it could have mattered if they had been given one.
The results of the election revealed a significant protest vote cast against Republican candidates who were running unopposed by a Democrat. Candidates from smaller parties garnered up to a third of the total vote.
Kleeb stated that both she and the party attempted to recruit Democratic candidates but were unsuccessful. She stated that they will give it another shot the following time.
“We just have to do better,” Kleeb added.
Following a primary election for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in which election skeptics won more than half of the vote, Bob Evnen, a Republican, faced no opposition in the general election.
John Murante, a Republican running for state treasurer, won as expected with 72 percent of the vote. Katrina Tomsen, a Libertarian candidate, was the only choice on the ballot and received 28% of the vote.
Mike Hilgers, the Speaker of the House for the Republican Party, won the election for attorney general with 70 percent of the vote. His lone opponent on the ticket was Larry Bolinger, the candidate for the Legal Marijuana Now Party.
Lt. Governor Mike Foley won re-election to his previous position as state auditor with 69 percent of the vote, handily defeating the nominee for the Legal Marijuana Now Party, L. Leroy Lopez at 19% and Libertarian Gene Siadek at 12%.
The Republican party spent a record amount of over $50 million on state and local elections, but it was not enough to increase the party’s already significant lead in the Legislature into a majority that could not be blocked by another party.
The majority of Democratic candidates for the legislature lost the spending battle to Republican candidates and outside entities. Despite this, there are two contests, one in Lincoln and one in Omaha, that are trending in the direction of the Democratic candidates and are likely to preserve the necessary 17 votes to filibuster the most conservative legislation.
Republican candidates were well-funded, but Democratic incumbents, such as State Senators Machaela Cavanaugh and Wendy DeBoer, were able to fight them off.
However, those who support women’s access to abortion cautioned against rejoicing due to the fact that pro-life Democrats had previously voted with Republicans on potential abortion restrictions and might do so again in the future.
Abortions in Nebraska are illegal after the 20th week of pregnancy. During the most recent session of the legislature, the Republicans came within two votes of approving a so-called “trigger ban,” which would have effectively criminalized abortion.
State Senator Megan Hunt of Omaha, who was one of the leaders in the push to filibuster the bill during the previous session, issued a warning about it on Twitter, stating that she had “never seen every Democrat in the #NEleg agree on anything.”
In the 2nd District, which includes the Omaha metropolitan area, moderate senators like State Sen. John McCollister and the late Rich Pahls will be replaced by more conservative senators, according to Republican statements. This could increase the likelihood of previously stalled legislation being passed, such as tax credits for private schools.
One of the more remarkable Republican-on-Republican elections that went the opposite direction this November was in North Platte, where Republican Mike Jacobson prevailed over a fiery candidate named Chris Bruns who was modeled like Mike Groene.
The effort to eliminate secret balloting for the election of committee chairs presents a potential early test for each and every Republican state senator. A significant number of Republicans have committed to doing so by signing a pledge with the Nebraska First PAC, which is supported by Herbster.
The First Congressional District
The Democrats were given yet another stern education in the electoral math. Whether or not there is an open seat, the Lincoln-heavy 1st Congressional District will continue to be difficult for them to win.
The Democratic Party fielded a formidable candidate for the House of Representatives in the form of State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, but her support among Lincoln voters was outnumbered by more conservative voters in rural areas.
After being redesigned the previous year, the district became more competitive in terms of voter registrations; however, there are still approximately 68,000 more Republicans than Democrats in the district. U.S. Rep. Mike Flood, R-Nebraska, won 58%-42%.
In a campaign that was far closer than anyone anticipated in June’s special election for the 1st District, which was the closest contest in that district in years, Flood narrowly defeated Pansing Brooks. Many Republicans were content with their status quo and chose to abstain from voting.
On the other hand, some Democrats were inspired to show up for the special election that took place two days after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, which overruled Roe v. Wade. The election took place two days following the judgment in Dobbs.
The issue of abortion continued to play a role in the general election, although Pansing Brooks had a difficult time convincing suburban women that Floyd Flood was an extremist on the subject of abortion.
Democrats believe that Flood was successful in “nationalizing” the race as a result of his co-sponsorship of the attempt by the Legislature to adopt a “trigger bill” to ban abortions. His effort to brand his opponent as “Patty Pansing Pelosi” received support from funders and outside organisations, which helped him to reinforce his campaign’s efforts.
Observers believe that Flood’s victory by 16 points, which may or may not result in a primary challenger in the next two years, may cause others to reconsider their decision to run for office.
Former Republican Representative Jeff Fortenberry, who was found guilty of three federal offenses and announced his resignation in March, won his first election in 2004 by a margin of 11 points, and he won his second election in 2006 by a margin of 17 points.
Despite this, there were a greater number of Democrats living in the 1st District back then, especially those living in Dakota County, which is home to South Sioux City.
The 2nd Congressional District
The pattern that is starting to emerge in the most competitive congressional race in Nebraska, which is taking place in the Omaha area, is getting close to matching the district’s edge in Republican registration by 4 percentage points.
An examination of voting patterns and election outcomes in the 2nd District reveals that the U.S. This year, Representative Don Bacon did not receive a greater number of votes than he received in either 2020 or 2018.
However, it is possible that the new district plan has made it more difficult for Democrats to close the gap, as there are likely fewer persuadable voters in the rural areas of Saunders County than there are in the suburban areas of Papillion and La Vista in Sarpy County.
The work that Bacon’s team put in to establishing a new county party infrastructure in Saunders County, which is the most recent addition to the district, was really impressive. He won the race by a margin of 76% to 24% over Democratic State Sen. Tony Vargas.
The participation rate of Democrats in Douglas County came in at 53%, which was significantly lower than predicted. Abortion was an issue that the Democrats thought would encourage more suburban women to support their cause, and it did.
Vargas and other outside organisations attempted to elevate the topic of abortion to a central position. According to Bacon, advertising on the topic was what energized his base of anti-abortion supporters who were religious.
Bacon had more outside groups advertising his work in Washington, D.C. than Vargas had touting his legislative record in Lincoln, but both sides had outside groups that attacked the other side.
Bacon appeared to reclaim GOP voters that he may have lost during the primary, when Trump openly insulted him and urged for anyone to challenge him. Bacon appeared to have gained these voters back. However, it’s possible that the assaults helped Bacon keep his Biden-Bacon voters from the 2020 election. These voters divided their ballots in the 2nd District, giving both him and Biden more votes in the 2nd District than Trump.
In the same way that Kara Eastman did before him, Vargas had a difficult time in the county where Bacon lives. Vargas was defeated there by a score of 65% to 35%, and his victory in Douglas County by a margin of 51% to 49% was not enough to make up for it.
According to Landow, winning is tough for Democrats in the 2nd District because to the presence of Sarpy County and, more recently, Saunders County. The district has a tendency to vote Republican, as it has a minor lean in that direction.
The Third Congressional District
As was to be predicted, Republican U.S. Representative for Nebraska Adrian Smith prevailed over his two nominal opponents, Democrat David Else (15%) and the Legal Marijuana Now Party’s Mark Elworth Jr. (6%), garnering 78% of the vote to win the election.
Soon, Smith will find out whether or not the eight terms of seniority he has earned on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee will pay off. On this committee, Smith is in position for a possible leadership role.
Board of Regents of the University of Nevada
The importance of Ricketts and the financial support he provided to candidates at all levels of the ballot was a recurring issue during the 2022 election cycle. He supported Pillen, who ultimately won the election for governor.
Ricketts provided support for the candidate who ultimately prevailed in the contest for a seat on the University of Nebraska Regents; this candidate was Kathy Wilmot of Beaver City, who had previously served on the State Board of Education.
The governor used $314,000 of his own funds to contribute to a political action organization that aired advertisements criticizing Wiliams for not being sufficiently conservative. Additionally, Ricketts gave a contribution of $20,000 to Wilmot’s campaign.
Williams, who Pillen supported, alleged that Ricketts was attempting to influence management decisions at the university system and its flagship institution. Williams received Pillen’s endorsement for his argument.
Board of Education of the State
The effort to encourage conservative parents to cast their ballots was successful in some areas, contributing to an increase in Republican voter participation in Douglas and Lancaster Counties.
Kirk Penner of Aurora, Sherry Jones of Grand Island, and Elizabeth Tegtmeier of North Platte, who were all members of the Republican slate of candidates for the State Board of Education, were victorious in their respective campaigns.
However, the group was unable to reach its objective since Democratic incumbent Deb Neary in the west Omaha district was able to stave off a challenge from Republican incumbent Marni Hodgen.
After Neary’s victory, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in the race to select the next state education commissioner.
Republicans have cautioned the board not to put themselves in danger by trying to resurrect the planned health education standards after the election.
Conservative senators have indicated that legislative action may be necessary as a result of the proposed standards, which have been harshly criticized by the Republican Party for the way in which they instruct schools to interact with LGBTQ pupils.
The Nebraska Department of Education has already been requested to be investigated by a select few conservative legislators in the state of Nebraska.
There have been multiple discussions of doing away with the board and placing the department under the jurisdiction of the governor. According to what Neary has said, the board does not have any plans to bring the proposed criteria back into consideration.
In four races pertaining to public safety, the Republican party fared better than expected in Lancaster and Douglas Counties.
It would appear that Republican Pat Condon prevailed over Democrat Adam Morfeld in the race for top prosecutor in the Lincoln area. Morfeld was a state senator.
Despite a significant challenge from the Democrat Jay Pitts, Republican Terry Wagner was re-elected as sheriff of Lancaster County.
In the Omaha-area, former Omaha union leader Aaron Hanson defeated former Omaha Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez for Douglas County sheriff.
Longtime Democrat-turned-Republican Don Kleine trounced Democrat Dave Pantos to win another term as Douglas County attorney.
Money from a pair of major donors, Ricketts and Sandhills Publishing’s Tom Peed, made a difference late in the Lancaster County attorney’s race and the Douglas County sheriff’s race.
Democrats said it was hard for Morfeld and Gonzalez to overcome late, six-figure ad buys supporting Condon and Hanson.
In red-state Nebraska, it may have been hard to see the red wave. But it was there, in increased interest in races farther down the ballot. But Democratic voter interest was strong, too. And the legislative dam held.