Education proposal at center of primary for Nebraska State Board of Education

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Sexual education proposal at center of primary for Nebraska State Board of Education
  2. 54.3% of the nation’s state legislators are Republicans
  3. Every U.S. House district in California has a contested primary this year

Education proposal at center of primary for Nebraska State Board of Education

Over the past few months, we’ve brought you deep dives into some of the primaries we are watching closely this election cycle. Most of them have been for Congress or governors. Today, we are shifting gears and looking at a state board of education election in western Nebraska.

Three candidates are running in the top-two primary election for Nebraska State Board of Education District 7 on May 10: incumbent Robin Stevens, Pat Moore, and Elizabeth Tegtmeier. While this race is officially nonpartisan, all three candidates are registered Republicans.

A March 2021 proposal that would have recommended K-12 health education standards sits at the center of this race. This proposal, written by an education department advisory group, would have included teaching all students about gender identity and stereotypes. High school students would have also been taught about homophobia, transphobia, and sexual assault.

A second draft released in July 2021 eliminated several references to gender and sexuality. In September, the board voted to pause the process of developing these standards. Currently, local districts establish their own standards.

Supporters of the draft included the Women’s Fund of Omaha and OutNebraska, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group. Opponents included Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and 28 members of the Nebraska Senate. Ricketts and at least 14 state senators have endorsed Tegtmeier in the primary.

Stevens, who was first elected after running unopposed in 2018, said the board needed to re-establish public trust. “We didn’t do a good job early on of getting the health standards out to people, it hurt us and it hurt us badly,” Stevens said. 

Moore told the Omaha World-Herald that the proposed health standards showed the board needed change, saying, “Some of the processes that have been in place I believe need challenged and some of the thinking the board members have need challenged.”

At a campaign event, Tegtmeier said she chose to run after hearing a state senator speak about the proposed standards, saying, “I didn’t want to get 10 years down the road and have to tell my kids that I thought about doing something but just didn’t do it.”

District 7 is one of eight on the Nebraska State Board of Education and one of four holding elections this year. The board is an executive agency in the Nebraska state government, responsible for managing the state’s public scools.The board also appoints and works with the state commissioner of education to oversee and evaluate the state school program.

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54.3% of the nation’s state legislators are Republicans

Ballotpedia’s March count of the 7,383 state legislators found that 54.2% are Republicans and 44.4% are Democrats. Fun fact: at least one state is adding new legislative seats this cycle. More on that to come later this week.

Republicans control 62 of the country’s 99 legislative chambers, while Democrats control 36. The Alaska House of Representatives is the only chamber controlled by a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition.

Since last month, Republicans have seen a net decrease of four House seats while their number of state senators remained the same. Democrats gained three Senate and four House seats during that time.

Compared to March of last year, the state legislatures are 2.5% less Democratic (46.9% to 44.4%) and 2.0% more Republican (52.3% to 54.3%).

Republicans have controlled a majority of state legislative seats since 2011, making this the party’s longest period of majority control at that level of government in more than 100 years. From 1921 to 2021, a majority of state legislators were Democrats for 74 years while Republicans were the majority for 26. Democrats’ longest period of majority control lasted 48 years from 1955 to 2003.

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Every U.S. House district in California has a contested primary this year

For the first time since at least 2014, every U.S. House district in California will have a contested primary election this year. In California, a primary is contested if more than two candidates file to run. That’s a key takeaway from our ongoing analysis of primary election competitiveness nationwide this election cycle.

This year, 265 candidates are running in California’s 52 districts, including 126 Republicans, 112 Democrats, and 27 independent and third party candidates. That’s 5.1 candidates per district, more than the 4.2 candidates per district in 2020 and 3.9 in 2018. This figure increased partly due to a larger number of candidates but also because the number of congressional districts in California decreased by one following the 2020 census.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • There are 47 incumbents seeking reelection this year, all of whom will face primary challengers, another first since at least 2014.
  • Five districts are open, meaning no incumbent filed for re-election. Four incumbents did not seek re-election and one—Rep. Devin Nunes (R)—resigned early. Nunes’ retirement triggered a special election in the 22nd District, which will fill the vacancy on June 7. No candidates in the special election filed to run in the regularly-scheduled general election. That means the winner of the special election will serve until Jan. 3, 2023, when the winner of the regular general election will assume office.
  • At this point, no districts are guaranteed to either party because both Democrats and Republicans filed to run in all 52. After the primaries, some districts may feature general elections between two candidates from the same party due to California’s top-two primary system.

California’s primary elections are scheduled for June 7. Under the state’s top-two primary system, all candidates are listed on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election.

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