Although there weren’t many surprises in our recent election cycle usually there are none at all, and so, a brief look back through the settled dust.
Voter turnout: 696 thousand Nebraskans voted this time around out of a possible 1.2 million who are registered for a turnout of 57%. While not as high as a presidential election year ( 2016 was 71%) it was still a solid increase over 2014’s 48 % rate. According to the Secretary of State website Republicans hold a statewide 48 – 31 percent advantage over Democrats in registered voters with 20% remaining or defaulting to independent or non-partisan as it is officially termed. Libertarians have .01 % and Greens are not currently recognized and need to petition again to get ballot status.
Money turnout: As usual more dollars turned out to vote than people. Open Secrets (opensecrets.org) reports that a combined $12.3 million was raised for Nebraska’s House and Senate races this cycle, 56% by Republicans and 40% by Democrats. In the Senate race Republican Deb Fischer out-begged her opponent Jane Raybould by a 3-1 margin (about $6 million to $2 million) with some 90% of Fischer’s money coming from PACs and what Open Secrets calls “large individual contributions”. The Bacon vs Eastman race in the 2nd Congressional District was much closer with Bacon having the slight edge of 2.48 million to Eastman’s 2.35 million(which was raised with Eastman refusing PAC contributions). Bacon retained his seat by just 2 percentage points 51-49.
One other interesting note can be found at Open Secrets by going to the Nebraska page through their search box and clicking on the Donor menu. There you will find that TD Ameritrade , not the organization itself but its owners (Ricketts family) their employees and their PACs, spent more than $3.7 million around the country (including Nebraska of course) just on congressional elections. This is 10 times what the next highest donor spent and about as much as the rest of the top 20 donors in Nebraska combined.
Results: As expected most incumbents at the state level were reelected, Bacon by just 6500 votes, Fortenberry and Smith by remaining invisible. In broad terms the 20% who are non-partisans split evenly enough that Democrats could not overcome the registration advantage held by Republicans. What was a slight surprise is that Initiative 427, to expand Medicaid to some of the working poor, won by 6-7 points mostly on the strength of urban and suburban voters. And while pipeline and climate activists came just short of “flipping” the Public Service Commission to a more progressive makeup, a real clean energy advocate, Eric Williams was elected to the OPPD Board.
Looking ahead: After 3 terms as Secretary of State, John Gale is stepping aside and his elected replacement, Bob Evnen, has declared support for more stringent voter ID laws so we need to keep a lookout in that direction. Even though the Democrats picked up a couple seats in the state legislature it remains solidly Republican and only nominally non-partisan.