- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska voters have reinstated the state’s death penalty and threw their support behind Republican Donald Trump, while Omaha-area voters ousted the state’s lone Democratic congressman.

The election was also a shake-up for the Legislature, which will see at least a dozen new faces next year due to a combination of term limits and at least one incumbent who lost his seat.

Here are some important developments in this year’s election:

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LIFE FOR THE DEATH PENALTY

Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty, reversing the Legislature’s decision last year to repeal capital punishment with a ballot campaign partially financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The Legislature’s vote to abolish capital punishment triggered a multimillion-dollar campaign battle between death penalty supporters and opponents. Nebraska’s largest law enforcement groups urged voters to reinstate the punishment, while religious leaders spoken against it.

Lincoln attorney Bob Evnen, who campaigned in support of the death penalty, said voters sent a clear message that they believe the punishment is appropriate for the most heinous crimes.

“My hope is (policymakers) will take to heart what happened tonight,” Evnen said.

Dan Parsons, a spokesman for the anti-death penalty group Retain a Just Nebraska, said it’s still unlikely Nebraska will carry out an execution anytime soon.

“The voters have spoken, and a majority want the death penalty to work,” Parsons said. “Unfortunately, that’s a false promise.”

Nebraska has 10 men on death row but hasn’t executed an inmate since 1997, when it used the electric chair. The state currently lacks all the drugs required for its lethal injection protocol, but state officials have floated the idea of changing the protocol.

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PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Republican Donald Trump won all five of Nebraska’s electoral votes Tuesday, claiming even the hotly contested 2nd Congressional District in Omaha that Democrats had hoped to secure for Hillary Clinton.

Trump thwarted Clinton’s attempt to win the Omaha-centered district, which went to Democrat Barack Obama when Nebraska split its electoral votes for the first time in 2008.

Nebraska and Maine are the only states where it’s possible to divide electoral votes between presidential candidates.

Clinton visited Omaha in August for a rally with billionaire Warren Buffett, and Bill and Chelsea Clinton campaigned in the city before Nebraska’s May primary. Trump has established a campaign office in Omaha and visited in May, shortly after the last of his primary opponents dropped out.

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CONGRESSIONAL RACES

Republicans hoping to again claim all of Nebraska’s congressional offices got their wish Tuesday when GOP challenger Don Bacon defeated incumbent Democrat Rep. Brad Ashford in the state’s Omaha-centered 2nd District.

Ashford had sought a second term, touting himself as a champion of bipartisanship in a gridlocked Congress. In 2014 he became the first Democrat in 22 years to win the district after defeating 16-year Republican incumbent Lee Terry.

That left state Republican vowing to retake the seat in the next election.

Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, managed a squeaker of win, with barely more than 49 percent of the votes. Bacon resonated with voters by painting himself as a Washington outsider whose conservative policies are more in line with conservative Nebraskans.

He’ll enter Congress in January as a member of the majority party after Republicans on Tuesday clinched continued House control for the new Congress.

In Nebraska’s 1st District, GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry easily won re-election to a seventh term, defeating Democrat and political newcomer Daniel Wik, a Norfolk pain management doctor. In the vast, rural 3rd District, Republican Rep. Adrian Smith ran unopposed.

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CONSERVATIVE REBOUND

Nebraska Republicans easily held onto their majority in the state’s one-house, officially nonpartisan Legislature, with candidates prevailing in enough races to remain the dominant party even though senators aren’t controlled by formal party leadership.

New senators are expected to fill 11 seats that were open because of term limits, plus one where a GOP incumbent was ousted in the May primary. In addition, Republican state Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis lost to a more conservative challenger, Tom Brewer of Gordon.

Nebraska’s Legislature has been comprised of 35 Republicans, 12 Democrats, one left-leaning independent and one Libertarian. Some Republican incumbents who weren’t up for election are known to break ranks.

The Legislature could see a major shake-up next year because of term limits and a push by conservatives to unseat more moderate incumbents.

Despite a Republican majority, the officially nonpartisan Legislature has shown an independent streak in recent years by abolishing capital punishment, increasing the gas tax, and allowing drivers’ and professional licenses for youths who came to the country illegally with their parents.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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