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Stories about Nebraska

Two Nebraska school districts to hold recall elections Jan. 11

The Waverly and Leyton school districts in Nebraska are holding recall elections on Jan. 11 against a total of three school board members. Voters will be asked whether they are in favor of recalling the members from office with the option of voting yes or no.

Ward 4 representative Andy Grosshans is on the ballot in the Waverly school district. Recall supporters said they began the effort due to Grosshans’ vote to extend an emergency resolution giving the superintendent the power to “develop rules and regulations deemed necessary for the government and health of the district’s students and devise any means as may seem best to secure regular attendance and progress of students at school,” according to The Waverly News. The school board initially passed the emergency resolution in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the board voted to extend the resolution through the 2021-2022 school year.

In response to the recall effort, Grosshans said, “For 12+ years, I have worked hard to make well-informed decisions to provide the students of District 145 with a safe environment in which to receive an outstanding education. In these difficult times, I hope for continued understanding and patience as we use key resources and area experts to do what’s in the best interest of all students.”

Recall supporters had until Oct. 30 to collect 88 signatures to put the recall against Grosshans on the ballot.

Suzy Ernest and Roland Rushman are on the ballot in the Leyton school district. The recall petitions listed the district’s increased legal fees since January 2021 as reasons for the recall against both Ernest and Rushman. The petition against Ernest said she took action without the full board’s approval on two items: placing the superintendent on paid administrative leave and signing an acceptance for asbestos removal. The petition against Rushman said he failed to follow the Board Code of Ethics and slandered district administrators.

In response to the recall effort against her, Ernest said her action to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave was authorized in the superintendent’s contract. Both Ernest and Rushman said the decision to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave occurred after the board received serious complaints. They said those complaints were the reason behind the district’s increased legal fees. Ernest also said that she signed the acceptance for asbestos removal under the direction of the then-interim superintendent.

To get the recalls against Ernest and Rushman on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect 138 signatures for each member.

Ballotpedia tracked 90 school board recall efforts against 233 board members in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 339 recall efforts against 529 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

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Recall election to be held Dec. 14 against Nebraska county supervisor

A recall election against Doris Karloff (R), District 2 representative of the seven-member Saunders County Board of Supervisors in Nebraska, is being held on Dec. 14.

The recall effort was started by Rhonda Carritt, a resident of Wahoo, Nebraska, which is represented by Karloff on the county board of supervisors. Carritt said Karloff was not representing “the best interests of the district.” Carritt confirmed with the Wahoo Newspaper that the recall was related to a solar farm project in the county among other things.

Karloff’s son went into contract with the company starting the solar farm. Because of that connection, Karloff said she abstained from all discussions on the permit and did not vote on any actions related to the solar farm. “I have tried to do my best to make sure that I was doing everything legally correct,” Karloff said.

To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect 573 signatures in 30 days. Recall supporters submitted the signatures by the deadline, and the county verified 581 signatures, allowing the recall to be put on the ballot.

Karloff won re-election to a four-year term in the general election on Nov. 3, 2020. She defeated three other Republicans in the primary on May 12, and she faced no opposition in the general election.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 165 recall efforts against 263 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Recall elections scheduled against two Nebraska school board members

Recall elections against two of the six members of the Leyton Public Schools Board of Education in Nebraska are being held on Jan. 11, 2022. Board members Suzy Ernest and Roland Rushman will be on the ballot.

The recall petitions listed the district’s increased legal fees since January 2021 as reasons for the recall against both Ernest and Rushman. The petition against Ernest said she took action without the full board’s approval on two items: placing the superintendent on paid administrative leave and signing an acceptance for asbestos removal. The petition against Rushman said he failed to follow the Board Code of Ethics and slandered district administrators.

In response to the recall effort against her, Ernest said her action to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave was authorized in the superintendent’s contract. Both Ernest and Rushman said the decision to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave occurred after the board received serious complaints. They said those complaints were the reason behind the district’s increased legal fees. Ernest also said that she signed the acceptance for asbestos removal under the direction of the then-interim superintendent.

To get the recalls on the ballot, 138 signatures had to be collected for each member. On Oct. 12, the county clerk verified exactly 138 signatures for the recall against Ernest and 148 signatures for the recall against Rushman.

Ballotpedia has tracked 84 school board recall efforts against 215 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Nebraska enacts congressional and state legislative district maps

On Sept. 30, the Nebraska State Legislature approved new congressional and state legislative district maps. Shortly after the legislature’s approval, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) signed the maps into law.

The congressional map was approved by a 35-11 vote, with all dissenting votes coming from Democratic members of the legislature. All Republicans in attendance voted in favor of the map, along with four Democrats. 

The state legislative map was approved by a 37-7 vote. Twenty-nine Republicans and eight Democrats voted in favor of the map. Five Democrats and two Republicans voted against it.

Following the approval of the maps, Sen. Justin Wayne (D) said: “It was a very frustrating process, but we got to a good result.” Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (R), chairwoman of the redistricting committee, expressed approval of the maps and said she was “constantly reminded how capable Sen. Wayne is” during the negotiations.

These maps will take effect for the 2022 congressional and state legislative elections.



Jean Stothert wins re-election to third term as mayor of Omaha, Nebraska

Incumbent Jean Stothert (R) defeated RJ Neary (D) in the nonpartisan mayoral general election in Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday, winning election to a third term.

Unofficial results showed Stothert received 67% of the vote to Neary’s 33% at the time of his concession.

Stothert described her campaign for re-election as an effort to continue projects that had begun during her tenure such as the development of the city’s waterfront spaces along the Missouri River. Stothert also emphasized her expansion of the city’s police force and the passage of a bond package to fund road repairs.

Neary, a commercial real estate developer and former member of the Omaha Planning Board, called Omaha “a great city but one that struggles with racial inequities,” adding that he “envisions a more equal Omaha, with more and better affordable housing, and a more sustainable transportation system.”

Stothert is one of 25 Republican mayors among the country’s 100 largest cities. She was first elected in 2013 after defeating incumbent Jim Suttle (D) 57% to 43% and won re-election to a second term in 2017 with 53% of the vote.

If Stothert serves a full four-year term as mayor, she will become the longest-serving mayor in Omaha’s history. No mayor has served for more than nine consecutive years. Stothert has already served eight years as mayor.

To learn more about the mayoral election in Omaha, click here: Mayoral election in Omaha, Nebraska (2021)



Incumbents sweep school board election in Lincoln, Nebraska

Four incumbents were re-elected to the Lincoln Public Schools school board in Nebraska in the nonpartisan general election on May 4. Kathy Danek (District 1), Barbara Beier (District 3), Lanny Boswell (District 5), and Don Mayhew (District 7) each won new four-year terms on the seven-member board.

Baier and Boswell ran unopposed in the general election as well as in the primary that was held on April 6. Danek advanced from the primary alongside opponent Christina Campbell and won the general election with 56% of the vote. Mayhew advanced from the primary alongside opponent Michael Patestas and won the general election with 60% of the vote.

The city of Lincoln, Nebraska, also held nonpartisan general elections on May 4 for three at-large seats on the city council and two at-large seats on the Lincoln Airport Authority. Six candidates, including three incumbents, competed for the city council seats. All six advanced from the April 6 primary after defeating four other candidates. Incumbents Sändra Washington and Bennie Shobe were re-elected to the city council in the general election, and newcomer Tom Beckius won his first term on the board. John Olsson and Nicki Behmer won the airport authority seats.

Lincoln Public Schools served 41,737 students during the 2017-2018 school year. Lincoln is the second-largest city in Nebraska and the 71st-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Omaha, Nebraska, voters to decide mayoral, city council races on May 11

The nonpartisan general election for Omaha, Neb., will be held on May 11. The top-two primary was held on April 6. Candidates will be competing for mayor and seven city council seats. On election day, the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In the mayoral race, incumbent Jean Stothert and RJ Neary are facing off in the general election. Stothert is one of 26 Republican mayors across the country’s 100 largest cities. She was first elected in 2013, following Democratic control of the mayorship since 2001, and won re-election in 2017. She is Omaha’s longest-serving Republican mayor since 1906.

Neary is the chairman of Investors Realty, a commercial real estate investment company, and the former chairman of the Omaha Planning Board. During the primary, he received endorsements from the city’s three most recent Democratic mayors: Mike Fahey, Jim Suttle, and Mike Boyle.

Seven city council seats will also be on the May 11 ballot. District 3 incumbent Chris Jerram was the only city council member to not file for re-election in 2021. Five incumbents advanced past the primary election and will appear on the general election ballot. District 5 incumbent Colleen Brennan lost her re-election bid after placing fifth in the primary election.

*District 1: Incumbent Pete Festersen and Sarah Johnson are facing off in the general election. Festersen has served on the city council since 2009.

*District 2: Incumbent Ben Gray and Juanita Johnson will face off in the general election. Gray has represented District 2 since 2009.

*District 3: Danny Begley and Cammy Watkins are competing for this open seat. Incumbent Jerram announced in August 2020 that he would not seek a fourth term in 2021. He has represented District 3 on the city council since 2009.

*District 4: Incumbent Vinny Palermo and Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan will face off in the general election. Palermo has served on the city council since 2017.

*District 5: Patrick Leahy and Don Rowe will face off in the general election. Incumbent Colleen Brennan was appointed to the seat in December 2020. She placed fifth in the April 6 primary election and did not advance to the general election.

*District 6: Incumbent Brinker Harding and Naomi Hattaway will face off in the general election. Harding has represented District 6 on the city council since 2017.

*District 7: Incumbent Aimee Melton and Sara Kohen are facing off in the general election. Melton has served on the city council since 2013.

Omaha is the 42nd largest city by population in the United States. In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering municipal elections in 22 counties and 71 cities, including 43 mayoral elections.

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Lincoln voters to decide city council, school board, and Airport Authority races on May 4

The nonpartisan general election for Lincoln, Neb., will be held on May 4. The primary was held on April 6. Three city council seats, two seats on the Lincoln Airport Authority, and four seats on the Lincoln Public Schools school board will be on the ballot.

Incumbent Roy Christensen, incumbent Bennie Shobe, incumbent Sändra Washington, Tom Beckius, Eric Burling, and Mary Hilton are running in the city council election. The three candidates who receive the most votes will each earn a four-year term.

Although city council elections in Lincoln are officially nonpartisan, candidates can file with a party affiliation. Incumbent Christensen has served on the city council since 2013 and identifies with the Republican Party. In addition to Christensen, Burling and Hilton identify with the Republican Party. Incumbent Shobe was elected in 2017 and identifies as a member of the Democratic Party. Incumbent Washington was appointed to the council in 2019 and identifies with the Democratic Party. In addition to Shobe and Washington, Beckius identifies with the Democratic Party.

Nicki Behmer, Jason Krueger, John Olsson, and Tracy Refior are running in the Lincoln Airport Authority election. The two candidates who receive the most votes will each earn a six-year term.

District 3 incumbent Barbara Baier and District 5 incumbent Lanny Boswell are unopposed in their bids for re-election on the school board. Incumbent Kathy Danek and Christina Campbell will face off in the District 1 general election. In the District 7 election, incumbent Don Mayhew will face off against Michael Patestas. The winners of the four races will earn four-year terms.

Lincoln is the 71st largest city by population in the United States. In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering municipal elections in 22 counties and 71 cities, including 43 mayoral elections.



Stothert and Neary advance to the general election for mayor of Omaha

Incumbent Jean Stothert (R) and RJ Neary (D) advanced from the top-two mayoral primary in Omaha, Nebraska, held on April 6, 2021. The two will advance to the general election on May 8, 2021.

According to unofficial results, Stothert received 57% of the vote followed by Neary with 16%. The remaining candidates, Jasmine Harris (D), Kimara Snipes (D), Mark Gudgel (D), and Jerome Wallace Sr. (D) received 14%, 9%, 5%, and 0.1% of the vote, respectively.

Stothert is one of 26 Republican mayors across the country’s 100 largest cities. She was first elected in 2013, following Democratic control of the mayorship since 2001, and won re-election in 2017. She is Omaha’s longest-serving Republican mayor since 1906. According to pre-primary campaign finance reports, Stothert had $380,301 on hand.

Neary is the chairman of Investors Realty, a commercial real estate investment company, and the former chairman of the Omaha Planning Board. During the primary, he received endorsements from the city’s three most recent Democratic mayors: Mike Fahey, Jim Suttle, and Mike Boyle. According to pre-primary campaign finance reports, Neary had $73,960 on hand.

Omaha is located primarily in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. During the 2020 presidential election, the district voted for Joe Biden (D) after voting for Republicans Mitt Romney (R) and Donald Trump (R) in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Over that time, the presidential election margin in the district shifted 13.7 percentage points from Republicans to Democrats. Romney won by 7.1 points, which decreased to a 2.2-point victory for Trump. Biden won by 6.6 percentage points in 2020.

For more information on the primary and the candidates, click here:

Mayoral election in Omaha, Nebraska (2021)



Nebraska Department of Insurance Director Bruce Ramge retires

Bruce Ramge, the longest-serving Nebraska Department of Insurance director, retired on April 9. Former Gov. Dave Heineman (R) appointed him director in November 2010.

According to a press release from Gov. Pete Ricketts’ (R) office, Ramge served the department for 36 years, first joining in 1984 as an employee of the Market Conduct Division. He was then promoted to chief of market regulation in 1999, which was later followed by his appointments to deputy director and director in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

According to Nebraska’s constitution, Gov. Ricketts is responsible for appointing Ramge’s replacement with the consent of a majority of the state legislature. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Ricketts appointed Eric Dunning to the position on April 2, with an effective start date of April 19.

The insurance commissioner is a state-level position in all 50 states. The duties of the position vary from state to state, but their general role is as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator. The position is elected in 11 states and appointed in 39. The office is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.

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