Democrats make gains in Legislature; Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Medicaid Expansion

 Nebraska Democrats made significant gains in the Legislature during Tuesday’s General election — flipping three seats from the GOP — and Lancaster County became Nebraska’s new “Blue Dot” as Democrats won all but one Legislative seat that was up in the Capital city as well as every county race where a Democrat was running.

Elsewhere, Nebraska voters approved Initiative 427, which will put Nebraska in the company of 33 other states that have expanded Medicaid. The end result will make an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans eligible for Medicaid and allow the state to receive hundreds of millions in federal funds – which it currently pays into without receiving any – with a smaller state investment. This followed the approval in 2014 of Initiative 425, which increased the state’s minimum wage, by a vote of 59 percent to 41 percent.

In addition, two female Democrats — Elizabeth O’Connor (District 4) and Barbara Weitz (District 8)  — were elected to what had been an all-male University of Nebraska Board of Regents

“Building the party does not happen overnight — it takes work in rural and urban communities across our state with all shades of blue at the table,” said Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb. “We showed up strong winning key races in the legislature, Regents, Board of Education and local offices critical for decisions that impact our families every day. The Nebraska Democratic Party is building our bench, listening to our base and working to create a Nebraska where we all do better.”

The Democratic Legislative gains were led by the return of former Sen. Steve Lathrop, who beat incumbent Sen. Merv Riepe in the 12th District race. Lathrop served two terms in the Legislature before leaving because of term limits and sitting out a term.

Joining Lathrop in flipping Republican legislative seats were Machaela Cavanaugh in District 6 and Wendy DeBoer in District 10.

Additionally, Megan Hunt won her District 8 race and and becomes the first member of the LBGTQ community elected to public office in Nebraska.

In District 26, Sen. Matt Hansen won a second term, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks was unopposed and won a second term in District 28, as did Sen. Adam Morfeld in District 46.

In 2016, Republicans lost three seats but maintained control of the chamber, with a 32-15 majority. Democrats will control 18 seats — a game-changer — when the 2019 session convenes in January.

In the State Board of Education races, Deborah Neary defeated fellow Democrats Pat McPherson in the District 8 race and Maureen Nickels was unopposed in her race for another term representing District 6.

The Nebraska Democratic Party was proud to field over 850 candidates in the 2018 election, compared to the previous high of 515. From the races for U.S. Senate and House, statewide offices, the Legislature and scores of local races, the NDP fieded an impressive slate of candidates that looked and sounded like their communities.

The sheer number of Democratic candidates this year reflected the NDP’s aggressive party-building efforts. We are focused on critical infrastructure efforts reflected in the fact that we now have 73 county party chairs, compared to 41 in 2016.

The party’s Get-Out-The-Vote effort was also impressive, strong and statewide:

— For the first time, the NDP created Voter Guides listing all the Democratic candidates in each of Nebraska’s 93 counties this year. Those were mailed to each Democratic household in Nebraska and also were listed in the Party’s voting center. More than 325,000 Voter Guides were delivered at the door and by the mail.

— In addition, the NDP mailed and distributed some 200,000 Vote-by-Mail applications to potential voters across Nebraska.

— A total of 67,774 Democrats requested Vote-by-Mail ballots in 2018 — a 59 percent increase from 2014.

— As of Nov. 5, there were 67,673 Democratic ballots returned statewide, according to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office. That’s a nearly 81 percent increase from 2014, when 37,403 Democrats voted early.

— The NDP sent 280,665 texts to 260,462 voters. That new technology was available to candidates up and down the ballot, who made an impressive 760,832 text contacts with voters.
The NDP made 12,578 calls to 19,090 voters voters thru robo and live calls to support the entire Democratic ballot.

— This virtual phone bank also was available to candidates up and down the ballot, who made an impressive 77,895 phone calls to voters.

— The NDP opened 6 offices across Nebraska hiring over 16 canvassers in CD2 alone.

— The NDP recruited and trained over 550 volunteer “Block Captains” to encourage people to vote in the Nov. 6 election and to register voters in their communities. Block Captains were each assigned 50 voters in their neighborhood knocking on their doors at least two times this election cycle resulting in over 55,000 volunteer contacts with voters.

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