Some races still too close to call, but GOP gains at the Capitol

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November 4th, 2010

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Lincoln, NE –  Some races are still too close to call in the Nebraska Legislature, but it appears the GOP has made some gains to its majority.

State Capitol Building, Lincoln, Nebraska

Before the election, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 32-17 in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. Following the election, Republicans appear to have picked up one seat.  There are a handful of races likely headed toward recounts before the final number is official.  Even two Democratic incumbents who won, did so by small margins.  Senator Danielle Conrad from Lincoln won by 90 votes, Senator Norm Wallman of Cortland, south of Lincoln, won by 650.  Political Science Professor John Hibbing said that shows just how strongly Republicans performed in the election. “Generally you do see that pattern,” he said.  “It was a tough time for Democratic incumbents and the Democrats are probably happy just to get out of there as well as they did.”

State Democratic Party Chair Vic Covalt said he’s happy with the results. Democrats fielded candidates in only 10 of 24 legislative races, and won eight of those. “Eight Democrats out of 24 seats is about what the Democrats represent in the state,” he said. “So I guess we held our own.”

Covalt said the issue for Democrats in the legislative races was one of quantity not quality.  “So if you look at them from that point of view,” he said, “we only suffered two defeats in 10 attempts. That’s pretty good for us.”

The Unicameral is officially non partisan, but Covalt and State Republican Party Chair Mark Fahleson both say the parties support candidates who reflect the priorities of the respective parties. “Whether there’s a label behind it or not,” Fahleson said, “we want to put people in positions where they can enact public policy which will further many of the platforms of the Republican Party.”

Fahleson said the state party support of candidates was not so much financial but primarily other campaign support.  He said the election is a reflection of the Republican leadership already in place at the state capitol. “I think it sends a clear message that Nebraskans want a balanced budget,” he said. “They don’t want our taxes raised, and they like what Gov. Heineman and his team is doing here in Nebraska.”

Political Science Professor Hibbing teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He said Nebraskans are strongly committed to the nonpartisan notion of the Unicameral and would resist a change.  At the same time, he knows the political parties are part of the scene. “The partisan forces are so strong that even an attempt to put a non partisan label on it,” he said, “can only do so much.”

Despite what partisan forces may be in place, Hibbing said voting patterns at the Legislature don’t follow party lines all that much and in fact, tend to have more of a rural/urban split.

 

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