Legislative Primaries to Narrow Field, Regardless of Party
By Fred Knapp , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
April 29, 2022, 6 a.m. ·
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Almost half of the Legislature – 24 of 49 seats – is up for election this year, and the May 10 primary will narrow the field of who gets to run in November.
It’s a blustery Sunday afternoon, and Sarah Slattery is making her way through an east Lincoln park, heading for a neighborhood where the app on her phone tells her there are likely voters.
“I’m going to be all sweaty and out of breath, like ‘Vote for me,’ Slattery gasps.
Glancing at a name and address, Slattery approaches Steve Dunbar, who’s working on his yard.
“Are you Steven?” she asks.
“Yes I am,” Dunbar replies.
“Well hi, I’m – my name’s Sarah Slattery I’m running for the Legislature.”
“Oh, okay. In District Two?”
“Okay, you’re in the right place,” Dunbar says.
District Two, after redistricting last year, now stretches from east Lincoln all the way to the Missouri River, including Slattery’s hometown, Plattsmouth. The race to represent it has attracted four candidates, each with their own pitch, including Slattery, a registered Democrat in the race for the officially nonpartisan Legislature.
“ I am a professional chef, lunch lady, school nutrition director and I’m a single mom, and I’m the working-class candidate. And I’m running because I don’t see a lot of representation for working families like mine in the places where decisions are being made about our lives, and I think it’s time that we change that,” she says.
The District Two incumbent and candidate for reelection is Sen. Robert Clements, a Republican banker from Elmwood. Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed Clements in 2017 to replace former Sen. Bill Kintner, who resigned, and Clements won election to a four-year term in 2018. He says he wants to continue what he’s been working on.
“I’m going to continue controlling government spending so that we can provide more tax relief -- property tax, income tax. I was pleased that we were able to get a major proposal (passed) and that’s a big step. I’ll continue to provide a conservative, pro-life vote for my district,” Clements says.
Another Democrat in the race is Janet Chung of Lincoln. Chung has a wide range of experiences ranging from volunteer positions with the Red Cross and the Southeast Fire and Rescue District, to being a program manager for energy efficiency with the Lincoln Electric System. She says those experiences have given her the ability to work with diverse groups of people, something she says voters she talks to are concerned about.
“I’ve heard comments about those tv ads that are being run. If you’re at home and you have the tv on, it’s ‘Why can’t people work together?’ And ‘Why aren’t they talking about the issues?’ So that’s been very interesting to hear because, you know, I think that personally, and then to hear voters say that has been quite interesting,” Chung says.
If elected Chung says her priorities will include property taxes, workforce development and climate change.
The fourth candidate in the race is Schuyler Windham. She’s an attorney who has previously worked with organizations including Nebraska Appleseed and ACLU Nebraska, and currently works with U.S. Lawshield, an organization that provides legal insurance for concealed-carry gun owners. Windham is a member of the Libertarian Party, and is emphasizing taxes.
“I want to lower the tax burden on families and small businesses. I’m out of Lincoln, and I talked with a lot of Lincoln business owners as I was running for office, just listened to their complaints and their concerns that it’s getting increasingly more expensive to do business in Lincoln. And I think that a lot of our small businesses are overlooked by politicians on both sides of the aisle,” Windham says.
The 2nd District is not unique in presenting a range of choices for voters. In Nebraska’s nonpartisan legislative system, candidates appear on the ballot without their party affiliations listed, and the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the November general election.
In this primary, there are a total of 65 candidates statewide vying to advance to the general election. (To see a complete list of all candidates by district from the Secretary of State's office, click here. Legislative candidates are on pages 6-11).
Two incumbents – Myron Dorn of Adams in District 30, and Tom Brandt of Plymouth in District 32, are running unopposed.
In nine other races, there are only two candidates, meaning they will face off with each other again in November.
The remaining 13 races, including the 2nd District, feature three or more candidates, meaning some candidates will be eliminated in this round of voting.
Of those multi-candidate races, eight feature candidates from multiple parties, while in five, all the candidates belong to the same party.
Statewide, a total of 42 candidates are registered as members of the Republican Party, 16 are Democrats, 3 are Libertarians, and 4 are registered nonpartisan.
With 12 senators being forced out by term limits, and two others deciding not to seek re-election, there will be at least 14 new faces in the Legislature when it convenes next January.
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