Nebraska Primary Election 2018

May 15, 2018 - 8:00pm

NET News Campaign Connection 2018 coverage includes results from the Nebraska primary election. Also follow our NET News Nebraska Facebook page for live video featuring results and analysis of the races. And listen to Morning Edition on NET Radio Wednesday morning for a wrap-up of election results including reaction from the candidates.   


UPDATE 12:15 a.m.

Social worker and political newcomer Kara Eastman has won the Democratic nomination for Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District.

Eastman defeated former Rep. Brad Ashford in Tuesday's primary election with a campaign that cast her as a champion of liberal ideals, including supporting a single-payer health care system.

Eastman contrasted herself against Ashford, a centrist and former Republican who focused on his legislative experience and willingness to work with conservatives.

She will now face Rep. Don Bacon, a first-term Republican who defeated Ashford in the 2016 election.

Ashford had been the first Democrat in two decades to win the district, which encompasses much of the Omaha metro area. Although Omaha's strong Democratic core is balanced out by more conservative suburbs, the district gives Democrats a fighting chance of capturing a congressional seat in a state that is otherwise overwhelmingly Republican.


UPDATE 11:25 p.m.

The Nebraska Democratic primary race for the 2nd Congressional District between social worker Kara Eastman and former Rep. Brad Ashford appears too close to call and could be subject to a recount.

Eastman appeared to hold a lead late Tuesday over Ashford, but neither candidate has claimed victory. The winner will face first-term Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who was unopposed in his primary.

Bacon narrowly won the seat in 2016 from Ashford, who served one term in Congress.

Ashford has presented himself as a centrist in the race, while Eastman has pitched herself as a liberal newcomer in hopes of energizing Democratic voters in the toss-up district.

The district includes Omaha and several Republican-leaning suburbs.


UPDATE 11:15 p.m.

A television reporter interviews Jane Raybould who won Nebraska's Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET News)

Lincoln City Council member and businesswoman Jane Raybould has secured Nebraska's Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Raybould will now face Republican incumbent Senator Deb Fischer in the November general election. 

Raybould believes political change is coming, and the time is right for a Nebraska Democrat to ride that to a seat in the U.S. Senate. The 59-year-old Raybould is a life-long Democrat currently in her first term on the Lincoln City Council and is vice chair. Before that she was on the Lancaster County Board. Raybould has worked for B & R Stores, her family’s large grocery business, as vice president and director of buildings and equipment.

Fischer is expected to be favored in the November race. She has the backing of President Trump, who tweeted early Tuesday afternoon: "Nebraska - make sure you get out to the polls and VOTE for Deb Fischer today!"

Raybould points out Nebraska has a history of electing Democratic businesspeople like Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey to the U.S. Senate, and hopes the next comes from the grocery business.


UPDATE 10:45 p.m.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts poses for a photo during a campaign party Tuesday night. (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET News)

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts easily won the Republican nomination for governor in Tuesday's primary election. Ricketts had 81 percent of the vote late in the evening compared to 19 percent for challenger Krystal Gabel.

Gabel from Omaha had made legalization of medical marijuana a point of emphasis in her campaign.  Ricketts has emphasized his efforts at improving the state’s economy, reducing the growth of state spending, and cutting taxes. 

Ricketts will now face Democratic challenger and state senator Bob Krist of Omaha in November's general election.  Ricketts has a decided advantage in fundraising going into that race.  Recent campaign finance reports show Ricketts had nearly $1.7 million in his campaign treasury.  Krist meanwhile showed $27,000 cash on hand.


UPDATE 10:30 p.m.

Nebraska state Sen. John Murante has secured the Republican nomination for state treasurer and is all but certain to win the office in November.

Murante's victory in Tuesday's primary sets him on the path to replace current State Treasurer Don Stenberg, who is ineligible to run because of term limits. No Democratic or third-party candidates have filed to run.

Murante defeated financial adviser Taylor Royal, a former Omaha mayoral candidate who highlighted his experience in accounting.

Murante, of Gretna, was first elected to the Legislature in 2012 and was re-elected without a challenger in 2016. He has touted himself as a staunch conservative with endorsements from most of Nebraska's top Republican officials, including Stenberg.


UPDATE 10:20 p.m.

Former lab chemist Jessica McClure has won the Democratic nomination to run in Nebraska's 1st Congressional District.

McClure defeated Lincoln attorney Dennis Crawford in Tuesday's primary election. She now faces incumbent U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who is seeking an eighth term and enjoys a significant fundraising advantage. Republicans have represented the district since 1966.

McClure started her career as a lab chemist and specialist who helps companies comply with federal regulations but resigned so she could campaign full-time. She says she decided to run because her daughter kept getting sick and Fortenberry voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She says also was distraught with the results of the 2016 election.


UPDATE 10:10 p.m.

Lincoln attorney Bob Evnen has won the Republican nomination to replace outgoing Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale.

Evnen's victory on Tuesday sets him up to face Democrat Spencer Danner, an underdog in GOP-dominated Nebraska. Gale is not seeking re-election.

Evnen defeated fellow Republican Debra Perrell, an administrative assistant from Hershey who hasn't raised enough money to trigger state reporting requirements. Evnen enters the general election with nearly $113,000 in cash on hand as of last month.

Evnen has pitched himself as a conservative who supports voter identification laws, which lawmakers have not passed.

Evnen spent eight years on the Nebraska State Board of Education and was actively involved in the campaign to reinstate the death penalty after lawmakers abolished the punishment in 2015.


UPDATE 9:55 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith has won the Republican nomination to seek a seventh term in Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District, an overwhelmingly rural area that covers most of the state.

Smith fended off three GOP challengers on Tuesday to claim the nomination. He now will face Democrat Paul Theobald, a hog farmer, historian and former administrator at Wayne State College who ran unopposed for his party's nomination. The district is heavily Republican.

Smith defeated Republican candidates Kirk Penner, an Aurora small business executive; Larry Lee Scott Bolinger, a property manager and author from Alliance; and Grand Island farmer Arron Kowalski.

Smith has pledged to focus on economic growth if re-elected and touted his support for the recent tax law passed by the GOP-controlled Congress.


UPDATE 9:15 p.m.

Bob Krist celebrates a primary election victory with supporters. Krist will be the Democratic nominee for governor in November and will challenge Republican incumbent Pete Ricketts. (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

Nebraska state Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha has won the Democratic nomination to run for the seat held by incumbent Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Krist defeated two other Democratic candidates in Tuesday's primary election. The veteran state lawmaker campaigned on promises that he would take a less partisan approach to state government than Ricketts.

Krist had been a Republican but switched his affiliation to nonpartisan in September when announcing his bid for governor. He reregistered as a Democrat in February because of legal barriers in his bid to qualify for the ballot as an independent.

The two other Democrats who ran were Vanessa Ward, a pastor and community activist from Omaha, and Tyler Davis, a University of Nebraska at Omaha instructor.


UPDATE 8:30 p.m.

Senator Deb Fischer interviews with a reporter Tuesday night after winning Nebraska's Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET News)

Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska has won the Republican nomination in her bid for a second term in office.

Fischer defeated four GOP challengers in Tuesday's primary election and will be the strong favorite to win re-election in deep-red Nebraska.

Some of Fischer's primary opponents had argued she wasn't conservative enough, but Fischer received endorsements from a majority of the state's elected Republican officials, as well as major farm and business groups. Before being elected to the Senate, she was a rancher and state legislator.

In the GOP primary, Fischer defeated retired Omaha math professor Jack Heidel; writer and retired air conditioning technician Dennis Frank Macek; former finance manager Jeffrey Lynn Stein; and Lincoln businessman Todd Watson.


UPDATE:  8:05 p.m.

The polls have closed in a Nebraska primary election that will set up races for U.S. Senate, governor and the U.S. House.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, ending a day of voting that election officials say was fairly light.

There were plenty of contests, topped by contested nomination races in both parties as Gov. Pete Ricketts and U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer sought second terms.

In congressional elections, attention was focused on the Omaha-based 2nd District, where Democrats Brad Ashford and Kara Eastman were competing for a chance to face Republican incumbent Rep. Don Bacon.

Other statewide races included state treasurer and legislative seats.


Voters will cast ballots in four states today:  Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Oregon. Much of the national focus is on Pennsylvania, where primary elections will begin to settle the swing state's chaotic congressional landscape after a court fight ended with redrawn districts just three months ago.

One of the races being watched closely in Nebraska is the 2nd Congressional District race.  Democrats seldom have the luxury of choice in Nebraska, where Republicans have dominated for 80 years. But, for the first time, Omaha-area Democrats have options for the state's lone urban House district.

Tuesday's Democratic primary in the 2nd District, dominated by Omaha and its suburbs, features moderate former Rep. Brad Ashford fighting for his old seat and Kara Eastman, a children's nonprofit administrator, running to Ashford's left.

Ashford, a former Republican, served one term in Congress as a Democrat before Republican Don Bacon beat him for re-election in 2016. Ashford, 69, has the endorsement of the Democratic establishment, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and is portraying himself as the one who can win in a swing-voting district in November.

Eastman, 46, is arguing that Democrats have lost by not offering voters a distinct choice and is campaigning on devoutly Democratic themes such as single-payer government-run health insurance, gun control and reducing climate change.

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