Nebraska Immediate Post Election Report
Submitted by Perre Neilan morning of November 7, 2018
The 'Blue Wave' bypassed Nebraska last night, at least at the federal and state constitutional office levels. Sen. Deb Fischer (R) easily won a second term as U.S. Senator with 58% of the vote and Nebraska's three congressional seats remain firmly in the hands of republicans. In addition, republicans handily won election to all of our constitutional offices, including governor, where Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) defeated State Senator Bob Krist (D) with 59% of the vote.
However, the election did result in two seats changing from red to blue in the officially nonpartisan Unicameral legislature. Senators are on the ballot without party identification but party influence in the campaigns can be significant. That, coupled with more liberal democrats being elected to represent already democrat held seats and less conservative republicans to represent republican held seats, and the body will be more moderate next year. Two sitting senators (Dan Watermeier and John Murante) were elected to other offices leaving two open seats for the governor to fill in the next few weeks.
Nebraska's 49 seat unicameral legislature is officially non-partisan but personal philosophies and politics play roles in how it operates. The last two years saw one of the more conservative bodies in recent memory. And while in 2019, republicans will still hold the majority of seats with 30, the 18 democrats and one independent will have a larger voice than they did in 2017 and 2018.
The legislature will convene on January 9th at which time they will elect committee chairs and determine committee assignments. Unlike many other states where committee chairs and assignments are determined based on the party in power, in Nebraska committee chairs are elected on a secret ballot by all members of the legislature and committee assignments are determined by a committee after that election takes place. We will not know the make-up of each committee until the end of the first day. Leadership elections are very much a senators only, internal process. Because this is the start of a new biennium, there are no carryover bills.
It is expected that Sen. Jim Scheer (R) will be re-elected as Speaker of the Legislature for his two final years in the body. At this time he is the only person who has expressed interest in this position.
There is still a lot hanging in the balance on the first day of session when leadership elections take place. Bill introduction is only allowed in the first ten days of session.