State Central meeting

THE STATE CENTRAL Meeting hosted several caucuses that focused on statewide topics such as climate change, health care and criminal justice reform. 

Alisha Shelton is running for the U.S. Senate to “drain the gas out of Ben Sasse.”

Shelton, who would represent District 10, wants to reduce gun violence, something she believes that Sasse is lacking in the Senate, she said.

Shelton attended the Nebraska Democratic Party’s State Central Meeting on Saturday to learn more and discuss important issues like gun violence in preparation for the upcoming elections.

“It’s been exciting; I’m learning a lot of information, and the caucuses are very valuable,” Shelton said. “I wish this is something that all Democrats would come to. Why not be an educated member of the party?”

The state committee meeting took place at Divots in Norfolk on Friday and Saturday for political candidates and Nebraska Democrats. Delegates and alternates to the central committee body voted on policies for the party.

The weather proved to be an obstacle for some attendees, but the event still saw a turnout of about 85 people. Party officers were hoping for 100, said Jim Rogers, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Several caucuses focused on topics such as rural agriculture, climate, interfaith and working families met throughout the day Saturday to discuss and vote on party policies.

“One of the interesting ones I've heard about (at the meeting) with our rural caucus is about renewable energy and how we can talk to folks in rural communities about that,” Rogers said. “Something that can create income streams, create jobs for folks and it's something we can (bring up) in addressing climate change.”

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said the event focused on four major issues: climate change, health care, income inequality and criminal justice reform.

Members also voted on field and finance plans along with party reforms. The organization wants to make all statewide officers have four-year terms. Right now, some are on two-year terms.

The party also wants to add 20 at-large seats to bring more diversity to the state central committee, Kleeb said.

“There are more LBTQ+ candidates and black candidates (in our party) than ever before,” Kleeb said. “We are bringing more diversity inside the party. ... My motto when I became chair was that we need all shades of blue at the table, whether you’re progressive, moderate or conservative or come from a community of color, we need your voice. And it hasn’t always been that way.”

The Nebraska Democratic Party will send 33 delegates to the national convention in Milwaukee on July 13-16.

To become a delegate, a Democrat has to be elected from the county convention to attend the state convention and then again be elected to attend the national convention, Rogers said.

County conventions take place May 14-24, with exact dates for each county to be announced. The state convention is June 6-7 in Omaha.

“This year we’re doing a regular primary on May 12,” Kleeb said. “And when we changed from a caucus to a traditional primary, we also did a rule of change where we’re allowing independents to take our ballot. That’s a huge change, because it’s the first time independents will have their vote count toward the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party.”

For Shelton, the state central committee is a way to hear from Democrats across the state, she said.

“As a researcher, I want to hear from everybody,” she said. “You have to talk to your neighbors. And my neighbors are anyone in Nebraska. It’s not just people in Omaha. I work in Winnebago, I work in Tekamah, I go through Blair. So I’m interested in hearing from everybody.”

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