- Associated Press - Saturday, August 30, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - With so many open races on the Nebraska ballot, voters have a lot to absorb. Here are five questions to consider about contests for governor, U.S. Senate and other offices:

__

WILL REPUBLICAN DOMINANCE HOLD?

Republicans occupy every statewide elected office in Nebraska, including governor, U.S. Senate, attorney general, auditor and treasurer. They also represent all three of Nebraska’s congressional districts.

With so much power in Republican hands, the Nebraska Democratic Party has tried to persuade voters that GOP officials are to blame for everything from the state’s prison-sentence miscalculations to partisan gridlock in Washington. Most expect the Republicans’ dominance to continue, but Democrats are expressing more optimism than usual, especially in the Omaha-centered 2nd Congressional District, where Democrat Brad Ashford is challenging Republican incumbent Lee Terry, and the race for governor between Republican Pete Ricketts and Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

__

WILL NEW FACES AT THE LEGISLATURE LEAD TO NEW LAWS?

The election will usher in at least 17 new state senators - more than one-third of the Legislature - to replace those who are leaving in January because of term limits.

Republicans outnumber Democrats 30-18 in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, which also includes independent Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.

Despite the big Republican majority, senators in the last two years have rejected the aggressive tax cuts and voter identification measures championed by conservatives in other states, such as Kansas. But they also have failed to reach a compromise on a proposal to expand Medicaid as part of the federal health care law, an issue supported by many Democrats. A change in the Legislature’s makeup could spur movement on those or other issues.

__

WILL GOV. DAVE HEINEMAN’S DEPARTURE CHANGE HOW THINGS ARE RUN IN LINCOLN?

Gov. Dave Heineman will step down in January as Nebraska’s longest-serving governor, having spent a decade in office.

The Republican governor spent much of his tenure pushing for tax cuts, increased funding for the University of Nebraska and incentives to lure businesses to the state. Even when he was elected in 2005, Heineman had statewide experience as lieutenant governor and state treasurer.

But his later years in office were also marked by clashes with lawmakers, who rebuffed his efforts to dramatically scale back Nebraska’s income tax and overrode his veto of prenatal care legislation. Some Democratic lawmakers have argued that the Legislature reasserted its independence after years of following the governor’s lead.

Both of Heineman’s would-be successors are promising to bring a new perspective to the Capitol. Ricketts pitches himself as a “real-world conservative” with business experience, while Hassebrook touts his years of advocacy for rural Nebraska.

Neither has statewide governing experience.

__

WHAT ROLE WILL THE KEYSTONE XL PLAY?

The Keystone XL oil pipeline has become a dividing issue between Democrats and Republicans running for governor and U.S. Senate. Although the project remains mired in a lawsuit, it has galvanized environmental groups and some conservative rural landowners who don’t want the pipeline running through Nebraska’s soil and groundwater.

Ricketts supports the project through Nebraska and notes that it would create jobs. Hassebrook is opposed, saying the pipeline would lead to more greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate global warming.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Dave Domina of Omaha is representing Nebraska landowners who sued the state to try to block the pipeline’s pathway in Nebraska. Republican Ben Sasse of Fremont supports the pipeline.

__

WILL BALLOT MEASURES AFFECT TURNOUT?

In addition to candidate races, Nebraska voters will decide whether to increase the state’s minimum wage. They also could vote on a measure that would allow electronic betting on previously recorded horse races, if it survives a court challenge.

The measures could attract voters who wouldn’t typically cast ballots in a non-presidential election but are interested in the wage and gambling proposals. Minimum wage proposals tend to attract Democratic voters, and the horse racing measure could draw more social conservatives who are uncomfortable with expanding gambling.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide