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Nebraska Democrats targeting legislative races and 2nd Congressional District heading into November

Posted at 4:39 PM, May 22, 2024

LINCOLN — From local races to senate seats, there is a lot of potential for voters to change the course of Nebraska politics this November.

But when it came to the 2024 primary there weren’t many surprises.

“None of these challengers did well at all, the incumbents dominated and showed they are in comfortable positions. So that to me was the surprise was how textbook everything seemed to be,” said Gregory Petrow, a Political Science professor at UNO.

While much of the attention this year is on the race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden one of the most impactful battles will be over the Nebraska legislature.

“We are looking at basically five seats. And I’m sure Republicans are looking at the same 5 seats that could flip either way depending on the ground and the air game,” said Nebraska Democrat Party Chair Jane Kleeb.

Among those seats, Districts 3, 5, 35 and 49 all feature tight races that could go either way and if Democratss lose out on those seats one of the biggest tools at their disposal, the filibuster, could be at risk.

But legislative races aren’t the only toss ups, Democrats also have a chance to win their first congressional seats since Brad Ashford won CD2 in 2014.

Tony Vargas will be heading into a rematch with incumbent Republican Don Bacon.

Vargas went through an uncontested primary but Bacon had a much more contentious race and Kleeb predicts that rough primary will hurt his chances in November.

“Don Bacon lost 35% of his base which is significant. There is no question some of those folks will come home to Bacon but we are looking at maybe 10 to 15 percent who will skip that race,” said Kleeb.

Arguably the worst primary outcome for the Democrats in the primaries came in a race where they weren’t running a candidate.

“He asked for our endorsement several times, we told him we would give him the endorsement after the primary, that was the plan. We were supposed to have a phone call to discuss the press rollout and he said he doesn’t want the endorsement anymore,” said Kleeb.

Independent Dan Osborne shocked the Democrats when he spurned their endorsement, who then issued a statement promising to push a write-in candidate.

More than a week later Kleeb seems to have softened her stance on a potential write in candidate, she isn’t ruling it out and says that Democrat support for Osborne could rest on who he chooses to support for president.

“There is clearly common ground with Democrats and Dan and now he is gonna have to earn the votes of the Democratic base and really prove to us that he has Joe Biden’s back, that he will caucus with the Democrats. If not, then why would we support him?,” said Kleeb.