2020 Nebraska Legislature

FILE — Lawmakers in the Legislative Chamber recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Lincoln on Monday, July 20, 2020. 

LINCOLN — Voters appear to have ousted two incumbent state senators while sending three former senators back to the Nebraska Legislature.

The three former senators all had been term-limited once. They were eligible to run again after sitting out at least one term.

Republicans picked up two more seats in the officially nonpartisan body. But Democrats lost only one seat, after the Legislature’s lone independent senator was replaced by a Democrat.

In races involving Northeast and North Central Nebraska, in District 15, Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont fended off a challenge from David Rogers to win a second term. Walz, a real estate agent, ran for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket in 2018. Rogers is a former chairman of the Dodge County GOP.

In District 17, incumbent Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, who farms with her husband, had no difficulty hanging on to her seat. The Republican lawmaker defeated former Wayne Mayor Sheryl Lindau, a Democrat.

In District 43, incumbent Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon handily defeated Tanya Storer of Whitman in the Sandhills district. Storer is a Cherry County board member. Brewer, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is the Legislature’s only Native American.

Four incumbents and one returning state senator had no opposition in their races. The incumbents are Sens. Justin Wayne of Omaha, Tom Briese of Albion, Steve Halloran of Hastings and Steve Erdman of Bayard. Former Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk was elected to the Legislature again.

The outcomes of some races could change as the final votes are tallied this week.

Here’s a look at other races around the state:

— District 1: Sen. Julie Slama of Peru bested Janet Palmtag of Nebraska City in a bitter battle between factions of the GOP. Slama had been appointed to the seat by Gov. Pete Ricketts. Palmtag had backing from former Gov. Dave Heineman.

— District 3: Sen. Carol Blood, a former Bellevue City Council member, held a slim lead against Rick Holdcroft, a retired Navy captain and political newcomer. Blood, the incumbent, is a Democrat. Holdcroft is a Republican.

— District 5: Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha once again defeated Gilbert Ayala to keep his legislative seat. McDonnell, a Democrat, and Ayala, a Republican, faced off four years ago as well.

— District 7: In South Omaha, Sen. Tony Vargas, a Democrat, coasted to a second term in the Legislature against Jorge Sotolongo, a Republican who was making his first bid for office.

— District 9: John Cavanaugh, a public defender, will join his sister, Machaela Cavanaugh, in the Legislature after defeating Marque Snow, the president of the Omaha Public Schools board. Both men are Democrats, as is incumbent Sen. Sara Howard, who was term-limited.

— District 11. Backing by incumbent Sen. Ernie Chambers helped political newcomer Terrell McKinney claim the north Omaha district against veteran officeholder Fred Conley. The two Democrats ran to replace Chambers, who is term-limited.

— District 21: Sen. Mike Hilgers, a Republican attorney, won reelection against Brody Weber, a Democrat and businessman. Weber mounted a strong campaign despite being outmatched in fundraising.

— District 23: Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard won a tough race against Helen Raikes of Ashland. The campaign got heated as Raikes, an independent, sought to unseat the GOP incumbent and follow her late husband, Ron Raikes, into the Legislature.

— District 25: Sen. Suzanne Geist, a Republican, outdistanced Stephany Pleasant, a Democrat, to hang on to her seat. The two were running for the district representing eastern Lincoln and northeast Lancaster County.

— District 27: Sen. Anna Wishart claimed reelection easily in her west and central Lincoln district. The Democrat, who led the petition drive seeking to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, defeated Brenda Bickford, a Republican.

— District 29: In perhaps the costliest legislative race, Eliot Bostar, a Democrat and executive director of two environmental advocacy groups, outpaced Jacob Campbell, a Republican business owner. Incumbent Sen. Kate Bolz was term-limited.

— District 31. Former Sen. Rich Pahls, a Republican Omaha city councilman, appeared headed back to the Legislature after besting Tim Royers, a Democrat and teacher. The two ran to succeed Sen. Rick Kolowski, who was term-limited.

— District 35: Former Sen. Ray Aguilar appeared to be returning to Lincoln. The Republican, who was the Legislature’s first Latino member, defeated incumbent Sen. Dan Quick, a Democrat, who won a tight race four years ago.

— District 37: Sen. John Lowe of Kearney won reelection easily. The registered Republican faced the only Libertarian running for the Nebraska Legislature, Mercadies Damratowski, also of Kearney.

— District 39: In Elkhorn, incumbent Sen. Lou Ann Linehan won against Allison Heimes, a political newcomer. Linehan, a Republican, is chairwoman of the powerful Revenue Committee. Heimes, a Democrat, sought to bring attention to mental health needs.

— District 45: Former Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, a Republican, pulled out a victory against Susan Hester, a Democratic retired teacher from Bellevue. The two were competing to succeed incumbent Sen. Sue Crawford, a Democrat who was term-limited.

— District 49: Jen Day, a Democrat and business owner from Omaha, appeared to have ousted incumbent Sen. Andrew La Grone of Gretna, a Republican. Day won despite La Grone’s backing by Ricketts, who appointed him to the seat in 2018.

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