Incumbent Leirion Gaylor Baird and Suzanne Geist are running in the May 2, 2023, nonpartisan general election for mayor of Lincoln, Neb. They advanced to the general election after being the top-two vote-getters in the nonpartisan primary on April 4, 2023.
While mayoral elections in Lincoln are officially nonpartisan, candidates for office are often affiliated with one of the two major political parties. Gaylor Baird is affiliated with the Democratic Party, and Geist is affiliated with the Republican Party. The last Republican mayor of Lincoln, Mike Johanns, left office in 1998.
Gaylor Baird was first elected mayor in 2019 after she defeated Cyndi Lamm 54.5% to 45.3% in the general election. A former Lincoln City Council member, Gaylor Baird has focused on public safety, economic development, and infrastructure. “Public safety has always been my top priority, and I will continue to support our first responders with investments in personnel, equipment and facilities. I will continue to: prioritize investments in our streets and other infrastructure that grow our city; bolster our economy by facilitating Lincoln’s record-setting development and construction activity, supporting local businesses, and investing in job training programs,” Gaylor Baird said.
Geist, a business owner, represented District 25 in the Nebraska State Senate from 2017 until April 6, 2023, when she resigned. Geist said that, as mayor, she would support law enforcement, promote economic growth, and invest in local infrastructure. “Together, we will work to support law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders. We will have a plan to make sure the streets of Lincoln are well-maintained for a smooth commute across our community. It will take all of us working together to grow Lincoln and promote prosperity for all,” Geist said.
Gaylor Baird has criticized Geist for her voting record while serving in the state senate, including on abortion, transgender issues, and concealed firearms. “Her voting record at the state Capitol makes it clear that her priorities are not our shared priorities. … They hurt Lincoln and they hurt Nebraska,” Baird said.
Geist has criticized Gaylor Baird’s record on public safety. Geist tweeted, “It’s important to understand that law enforcement supports me, not @MayorLeirion for a reason. I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with law enforcement in the legislature because it was the right thing to do. Leirion stood by when there were riots in ’20 instead of with the police.”
The Lincoln Fire Fighters Association, EMILY’s List, and the Sierra Club endorsed Gaylor Baird. The Lincoln Police Union, Gov. Jim Pillen (R), and U.S. Sens. Pete Ricketts (R) and Deb Fischer (R) endorsed Geist.
According to Nebraska Public Media, campaign contributions in the race had surpassed $2 million as of March 27, doubling the previous fundraising record for a Lincoln mayoral race set in 2019. Geist’s top contributors were businessman Tom Peed and his firm, Sandhills Global, which donated a combined total of $850 thousand to Geist’s campaign. Gaylor Baird’s top contributor was the Lincoln Fire Fighters Association, which donated $50 thousand to her campaign.
Gaylor Baird received 48.6% of the vote in the April 4 primary, and Geist received 33.9%. Stan Parker, a candidate affiliated with the Republican Party, received 17.4%.
With a population of around 293,000, Lincoln is the fifth largest state capitol holding mayoral elections this year. Lincoln is also holding elections for seats in the city council and the Lincoln Airport Authority on May 2, 2023.
As of April 2023, the partisan breakdown of the mayors of the 100 largest U.S. cities was 62 Democrats, 26 Republicans, three independents, and seven nonpartisans. Two mayors’ partisan affiliations were unknown. Based on 2020 population estimates, 76.1% of the population of the top 100 cities lived in cities with Democratic mayors, and 16.2% lived in cities with Republican mayors at the start of 2022.