Lincoln primary analysis: Portland on the Prairie

“Cross of Corn” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

greetings-from-lincoln-nebraska-ne-postcardA few takeaways from yesterday’s Lincoln primary election:

Lincolnites love being taxed.

One reading of yesterday’s results is that taxes are not a significant concern for Lincolnites. With the city sales tax, a significant wheel tax, telecommunications occupation taxes and the arena tax, yesterday Lincoln voters (or the 36,671 who voted—a 23.68% turnout) approved yet another tax increase.

The city’s proposal to raise $34.5 million through a 3-year quarter-cent sales tax increase easily passed by a 20 point margin. This does not bode well for Republican mayoral candidate Andy Stebbing, whose primary criticism of incumbent Chris Beutler has been that Lincoln’s taxes are too high and Beutler raised them. Guess what—Beutler just did his best Doug Neidermeyer, and Lincoln voters said, “Thank you sir, may I have another?

Lincoln is a government town. State government. County government. City government. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There are some in City Hall who dream of turning Lincoln into a Portland-on-the-Plains, with bike routes galore, farmer’s markets every day of the week, green energy for Lincoln Electric System, and clove-smoking granolas hanging out in coffee shops and street corners. After all, Beutler’s heir-apparent—City Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird—was raised in a barn in Portland. It appears that Lincolnites like that direction.

Right now the only thing preventing a complete Portland-on-the-Plains conversion is Lincoln’s orthodox Catholic community, widely regarded as one of the most if not the most conservative dioceses in the country (think Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, both well-liked in Lincoln). So while we may like taxes, “free” services and green initiatives, Lincoln still retains a culturally conservative bent for the time being.

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Stebbing demonstrated he’s within striking distance, but . . .

No rational political observer expected Andy Stebbing to win yesterday’s primary, but he needed to show he was a credible candidate and within striking distance (wags put that number at within 10 percent). Stebbing garnered 43 percent in a 3-person race, and achieved that goal.

The chances of Stebbing prevailing in May are not good (only twice in the last 50 years has the candidate who finished second in the primary gone on to win the general election), but he has a shot.

To succeed, he must begin to articulate WHY voters should toss Beutler out (and we now know taxes aren’t the reason) and must be able to tap into Lincoln’s business community, which has been successfully co-opted by the Beutler/Democratic machine in Lincoln. Most Lincoln business owners tolerate Beutler—it’s not hard to look good when you follow Colleen Seng.

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Here Comes the Money

There are two council races to watch in the May general.

First, longtime Republican Councilman Jon Camp narrowly defeated former Democrat Councilwoman Patte Newman in District 2 (southeast Lincoln—generally viewed as a higher socio-economic, Republican leaning district). This is not surprising as Camp is a vocal Council member and has earned his stripes taking on the firefighters union and, in our opinion, Camp didn’t campaign very hard.

Second, newcomer Republican Cyndi Lamm won a three-person race for Lincoln’s District 1 (northeast Lincoln—generally viewed as a blue-collar, Democrat district) and will face Meg Mikolajczyk in the general. Mikolajczyk is a single-issue candidate (the issue being LGBTQIA rights) and works for 2014 Democrat Senate nominee Dave Domina. She was not Beutler’s preferred candidate—his team wanted newcomer Mitch Paine to prevail, but Paine looks like he’s 12 (until he started growing a Justin Bieber mustache in the final weeks of the campaign) and didn’t work hard.

Lincolnites can watch as outside money and groups attempt to impact these elections. In the Camp/Newman race, Lincolnites can expect the unions to do an opposition research dump on Camp, and some expect the unions to even go so far as to drag Camp’s son’s recent legal issues into the campaign.

In the Lamm/Mikolajczyk race, voters can expect liberal interest groups and Domina to come to Mikolajczyk’s aid, and it’s anticipated that Sen. Deb Fischer, Gov. Kay Orr and Republican/conservative activists will rally around Lamm. Lamm cannot be easily pigeonholed; she has a compelling personal story (was once homeless), is wicked smart, works hard, and has a bevy of committed campaign volunteers (Rs, Ds and Is) who will door knock until the polls close.

If Camp and Lamm prevail, that will flip the Council from 4D/3R to 4R/3D. If voters want to keep Mayor Beutler around, why not have a check-and-balance on his actions with a Republican-controlled Council?

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Lincoln loves Purple Penguins

In recent months the Lincoln Board of Education has received not-so-positive national attention over Purple Penguins, purported social indoctrination on LGBTQIA issues, and teachers being charged with sexual assault.

One parent activist—Rachel Terry—stepped forward and put her name on the line to challenge the administration over the direction of Lincoln Public Schools. She was soundly defeated by Connie Duncan, part of the respected Duncan Aviation family.

Moderate Republicans, Democrats and the teacher’s unions made it clear that Duncan was their choice, and Purple Penguins live another day in Lincoln.

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ICYMI, here is Jerry Kratochvil’s interview with Andy Stebbing on Jerry’s podcast, The Wheels Down Politics Show:

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

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Annnnnd, ICYMI, be sure to listen to the latest podcast of The Wheels Down Politics Show where Jerry Kratochvil talks with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

13 comments

  1. Lancaster County Jail says:

    In 2008 there was a bond issue to build a new county jail, after voters resoundingly voted “No” Jon Camp supported the county building the jail anyway. I guess Jon Camp thinks that “No” really means “Yes”.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mikolajczyk is a single-issue candidate (the issue being LGBTQIA rights)

    You’re usually better at making s*it up than this, SS.

  3. Capitol City Politics says:

    While the tax increase did pass, it was for an update to 911 systems which are seemingly needed and most everyone, except Stebbing, agreed. It also has a sunset clause which made it more palatable to most.
    That being said, Stebbing needs to hammer on the green issues and the other tax issues. Also, potholes. He is on to something when the Beutler “finds” money and then, right before an election, goes out and fills the potholes that everywhere in Lincoln. He needs to attack Beutler for saying that Stebbing didn’t pay his taxes, when he did. Essentially, Beutler’s campaign called Stebbing a two faced hypocrite. When, in reality, the Beutler campaign lied or, at the very least, was poorly mismanaged and do not understand how taxes are paid–which can be just as bad.

    And, for goodness sake, talk about the time it took to fix P street for the purpose of making it look like Portland and the god awful barber pole they put up and called “art”.

  4. The Ether Bunny says:

    Jon Camp is toast. Pattern Newman filed at the last minute, spent almost no money and came up just short of winning the primary. Guaranteed the firefighters and other unions smell blood.

  5. Hesdeadjim says:

    When Lincoln is referred to as “the Portland of the plains”, it’s not a term of endearment to most of us.

  6. Purple Penguin says:

    I guess Lincoln voters are comfortable having boys now in the girls showers and bathrooms. LPS you Rock!!!!

  7. KHDS says:

    Camp is a great guy! The only person who didn’t think spending over a million bucks a mile for a bike route on “N” street was a good idea. He had seen something better and cheaper in China and he was blown off.

  8. Lowest Unemployment Rate In The Nation says:

    Lincoln has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. If you hear Andy Stebbing talk you’d think Lincoln was a crime-infested wasteland.

  9. Frank k says:

    There are some in City Hall who dream of turning Lincoln into a Portland-on-the-Plains, with bike routes galore, farmer’s markets every day of the week, green energy for Lincoln Electric System, and clove-smoking granolas hanging out in coffee shops and street corners.

    Yout made a list of why I moved to this town.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Connie Duncan won her School Board Primary handily because she is the classic County Club Rino Republican. A glance at her Facebook photos shows a who-who’s of liberal Lincolnites supporting her, including some of the most rabid liberal Lincoln state senators. Her yard signs are seen everywhere with Beutler’s. Rachel Terry, the Mom who stood up to LPS against the Purple Penguin fiasco is dismissed by the GOP establishment in favor of someone who will rubber stamp LPS. Business as usual in Lincoln which doesn’t have the Tea Party structure that Omaha does.

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