Press release: Democrats Punch Above Their Weight; On Cusp of Holding Legislative Firewall

Nebraska Democrats were poised to hold their 17-seat “firewall” in the Legislature on Wednesday — with voters on the cusp of ensuring enough Democrats in the statehouse to fend off more challenges to abortion rights and other radical Republican initiatives.

Democrats candidates — despite more than $3.5 million in spending just by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts alone — punched above their weight in several races. 

In both Douglas and Lancaster County there are several key races that are too close to call– involving Democratic candidates John Fredrickson in Omaha’s Legislative District 20 and George Dungan in Lincoln’s District 26 — plus state Sen. Adam Morfeld’s bid for Lancaster County Attorney. 

Statement from Chair Jane Kleeb:

“Democratic candidates and local volunteers work every day to connect with voters on issues from reproductive freedom and fully funding our public schools. The Democratic Party made gains throughout the state in county and local races with major shifts continuing to take place in Lancaster County.”

“We believe in our democracy and look forward to the hard-working election commissions working through the remaining early ballots and provisional ballots which will determine if we hold onto the Democratic firewall in the legislature. We have a long way to go to end the one-party rule across our state that leads to high property taxes and the risk of public school funding shifting to private schools.”

“There is no question that while we made gains in 2022, our national party infrastructure needs to listen more to the “red” state leaders who know how to win races but need the resources to combat the billionaires, like Pete Ricketts, who are literally buying races and distorting the facts.”

“We now focus immediately on Lincoln’s city elections which take place in May as we work to re-elect Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird.”

Highlights from the election:

In the Legislature, Democratic incumbents Senators Wendy DeBoer, Megan Hunt and Machaela Cavanaugh won their elections. Incoming state senators include Jane Raybould in Lincoln’s LD28 and Danielle Conrad in Lincoln’s LD46. 

Deborah Neary won re-election to the District 8 seat on the State Board of Education. Democrats also won school board races across Nebraska, including Andrew McCarty and Becky Sullivan to the Hastings Board of Education, Eric Garcia-Mendez to the Grand Island Public School Board and Brianna Full to the Subdistrict 2 seat and Shavonna Holman to the Subdistrict 4 seat on the Omaha Public Schools Board.

Lancaster County Commissioner Sean Flowerday won re-election to the District 1 seat, as did Rick Vest in District 5 and Lancaster County Treasurer Rachel Garver. Kristi Egger was elected Lancaster County Public Defender and term-limited state Sen. Matt Hansen was elected Lancaster County Clerk. Dan Nolte flipped a seat and was elected County Assessor. 

Meanwhile, state Democratic state Sen. Tony Vargas conceded a close race to incumbent Republican Rep. Don Bacon in the Second Congressional District race. Vargas remains in the legislature for the next two years.

State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks overperformed in CD1, a district that has a 17-point voter registration advantage for Republicans.

Democrat Dave Else lost his bid for the CD3 seat.. There is a 19 percent to 62 percent registration deficit for Democrats compared to Republicans in the district.

State Sen. Carol Blood traveled the entire state listening to voters and putting a megaphone to issues like the pollution in Mead in her bid for governor. She remains in the legislature for two years where we are confident she will keep Pillen accountable. 

Nebraska voters approved a ballot measure raising Nebraska’s minimum wage and another allowing local governments to spend money to improve commercial airline service.

Democrats successfully urged voters to cast early ballots, which increased to more than 100,000 from the 72,000 in 2018. More data points on trends statewide and at the local level will be available in the coming months.

Additional Background:

Seventeen senators is the minimum needed to block filibusters by the GOP majority. That 17-senator voting block successfully blocked an effort earlier this year to outlaw abortions in Nebraska.

Under Nebraska law, those races would require a recount if neither candidate wins by more than one percentage point. 

The NDP’s legal team and candidates will be engaged in those final counts over the next several days.

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