5 things to watch in every state: Nebraska

Ahhh, my home state.  Even though we are a Conservative state, there is quite a bit to watch in this state. I wrote a voter guide for the state.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District: Moderate Democrat Brad Ashford won election in 2014 against Republican incumbent Lee Terry.  District 2 had been a close election in every election except 2010 when Democrat Tom White got crushed by Lee Terry.  Jim Esch had twice almost upset Lee Terry (2008 was a lot closer than 2006) and John Ewing had very nearly defeated Terry in 2012, losing by 4,000 votes.  In 2014, with turnout much lower, Ashford managed to defeat Terry by close to 6,000 votes.  The Libertarian Party candidate Steven Laird received 9,021 votes.  Laird is on the ballot, again, in 2016 which will likely help Ashford.  Ashford’s opponent this year is retired Brigadier General, Don Bacon.  Bacon’s campaign strategy in this election has been to try to make Ashford seem more like a partisan than he really is and that Ashford doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Bacon, for whatever it’s worth, initially called for Trump to step down but then deleted that press release from his website.  He has since affirmed his support for Trump.  It’s a weird strategy, in my opinion, see below.  Currently, as we finished October for early voting, Democrats have a ballot advantage of 6.5 thousand ballots that have been returned.  Independents have returned 8,742 ballots as of 10/31.  In 2014, Ashford had a 10,000 vote lead in Douglas County.   This is to combat a more conservative Sarpy County.  The 2nd Congressional District also has a slight registration advantage for the Democratic Party.
  2. Presidential election, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District: As most of you probably know, Nebraska can split their electoral votes based on Congressional districts.  In 2008, Barack Obama was able to win the 2nd Congressional District and for the first time, able to split the electoral votes in the state.  Can Clinton do the same?  As I stated above, Democrats are on their way to getting a 10,000 vote advantage in Douglas County. Clinton and the Democratic Party has decided to focus staff and resources here that were not focused here in 2012.  This is similar to the Obama pledge in 2008.  In order to really pull out the electoral vote split, they need to continue the “get out the vote” effort that they have started.  My personal opinion is that Trump and his abraisveness does not play well within the district, certainly, not as well as Mitt Romney.  For whatever reason, my belief is that Gary Johnson does fairly well here.  The reason being is that while there are a lot of Conservatives in Omaha, we do have a Libertarian streak within us.  The other thing to pay attention to is how Mormons in the city of Omaha will vote.  Since we’re dealing with a smaller population, there are tends of thousands of Mormons in the city who may end up flipping the district toward Clinton.  It’s a real shame that we’re very terrible at counting ballots so we probably won’t know early on in election night if it’s going to flip.
  3. Referendum 426: The Conservative Legislature in Nebraska voted to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska.  This was vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts.  When it was sent back to the legislature, they voted to override the veto.  Beau McCoy and other Conservatives decided that they were so angered by this action that they would take this to the people.  Ricketts contacted State Senators personally to override his veto.  He spent time, donating, and his political clout to try to get State Senators who voted to override his veto out of the legislature.  Nebraska is a conservative state and it’s a confusing ballot question.  You can vote to retain which will retain the repeal.  If you vote to repeal, you are going to vote to repeal the repeal.  Confused, yet?  It’s very confusing.  I’ve written about why we should repeal the death penalty (vote to retain on the ballot question) and why I oppose the death penalty.  But I think the voters of Nebraska disagree with me and will vote to repeal the repeal.
  4. Nebraska State Senate District 7: This is a very Democratic district (I know, I know the Nebraska legislature tries to dress itself up as nonpartisan) and voted for Jeremy Nordquist in 2012 with 70% of the vote.  When he resigned to become the Chief of Staff to Brad Ashford, Governor Pete Ricketts decided to appoint Nicole Fox as his replacement.  Fox, a Republican, lost in the primary in 2016, losing by 20 votes to appear on the ballot for the general election.  The general election will pit two Democrats against each in the district, Tony Vargas vs. John Synowiecki.  Synowiecki is a former legislator for the district.  Vargas is an up and comer in politics.  I like both of these candidates and am interested if Vargas can end up winning after winning the primary election by so much.
  5. Nebraska State Senate District 31: This is my former legislative district in the state.  It pits fairly moderate Rick Kolowski.  Kolowski barely won the 2012 election, winning by less than 700 votes.  Kolowski’s opponent in this election is Ian Swanson.  Swanson is a young conservative who has been endorsed by most of the Republican Party in order to try to take back this Senate district.  Swanson’s qualifications are pretty sparse, to be honest.  If I’m interested in watching to see if the state senate will be even more conservative than before (which I am) than I am intently watching this election.
  6. Nebraska State Senate District 13: To a less depressing election for me to watch, we have State Senate District 13.  Jill Brown is running and facing Justin Wayne.  this is another election that I like both candidates so I can’t really decide who I would want to see win but I do want to watch it fairly closely.
  7. Nebraska State Senate, the interference of Gov. Pete Ricketts: The figure that looms large over Nebraska politics in this election and potentially going forward is Pete Ricketts. In District 23, Ricketts had a hand in propping up a challenger to Jerry Johnson.  Johnson voted to override a veto for a gas tax hike and providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.  Ricketts explicitly endorsed Les Seiler’s opponent Steve Halloran.  Ricketts targeted Seiler because Seiler voted to override his veto on the death penalty and the gas tax.  And in District 43, Ricketts also supported a challenger to Al Davis who voted to override Ricketts’s veto.  There are more than a handful of reports of Ricketts going out of his way to help challengers to legislators who oppose him.  I’m interested in watching this dynamic because Ricketts is effectively saying that he can’t work with these legislators if they oppose him.  It should come as no surprise that Ricketts backed away from his initial anti-Trump stance into a pro-Trump stance including a fundraiser for the nominee.  As Nebraska faces a $1 billion shortfall, we need legislators who are willing to stand up for their convictions and work for what is right without repercussions from who is essentially their boss.