Political Science professor talks big topics, watches to race for 2022 midterm election
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - With the election days away, there are several big races going on and ballot proposals to look for when you’re in the voting booth. 10/11 spoke with political science professor, John Hibbing, with the University of Nebraska to learn more about these initiatives and what races to watch for.
Seats on the line this election range from the governor’s office, congressional districts, and even the Lancaster County attorney’s office.
In Lancaster County, incumbent attorney Pat Condon and former state legislator Adam Morfeld are squaring off for the county attorney title. Hibbing calls the race fascinating.
“Lincoln may be leaning Democrat, the city itself; but the city of Lincoln is not the entirety of Lancaster County,” Hibbing said. “You move outside of that to a few of the small towns that ring Lincoln, and then you’re into more conservative areas. So county-wide races have tilted Republican in recent years, but Adam Morfeld, of course, is well known as a state legislator for eight years. And in other ways, as well, and he’s run a very vigorous campaign. So I know the Condon forces are nervous about this race.”
In the state, the shift of party registration has not returned to previous numbers. Some Nebraska Democrats registered as Republicans to vote for their GOP pick in the primaries. Hibbing is unsure if the people who switched will vote for the Republican candidate, Jim Pillen, for governor.
“It’s hard to ignore what’s happened in recent statewide elections in Nebraska, which is the Republicans win and usually win fairly easily. I think Carol Blood has run a really good campaign and done everything she could,” Hibbing said. “Whether that’s going to be enough to counterbalance that tremendous edge in terms of party registration, which also translates into a big edge in terms of campaign finance: the amount of money that each candidate has had to spend.”
Hibbing brands the Congressional District 2 race between Republican incumbent Don Bacon and Democratic challenger Tony Vargas the real toss-up election in Nebraska. Hibbing said, while Bacon is well-known in the district that includes Sarpy and Douglas counties, Vargas is a serious contender.
In Congressional District 1, which includes Lancaster County, Hibbing notes the last several elections, saying while Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks has come close, the district usually picks Republican and current congressman Mike Flood.
“This district has generally supported Republicans. You go back a long time, Doug Bereuter held the seat forever. Fortenberry had it for many, many terms. So, you know, if you’re asking for predictions, you just have to look at the past and say, ‘Well, it would be an upset for Pansing Brooks to defeat Flood, given what’s happened in the district in the past,” Hibbing said. “Lincoln, of course, leans Democrat, not by a large margin, but by a little. But Lincoln is only part of the first congressional district, unlike the second district where Omaha really dominates.”
It’s not just candidate races Hibbing will be tracking. There are two main ballot proposals voters will decide.
Initiatives 432 and 433 will ask voters to approve Voter Photo ID and increase the state’s minimum wage law.
Initiative 432, the photo ID initiative, is asking voters to approve a change to the state’s constitution to require qualified voters to present a valid photo ID at the time of voting.
“It’s a little vague,” Hibbing said. “One factor there is it simply says the legislature will figure out all the details about how photo ID will work, what exactly would be required, and things like that. It’s nice to have a little more specificity when you go to the voting place. So I guess you’d have to trust the legislature to work all that out.”
Initiative 433, the minimum wage initiative, is proposing a change to Nebraska’s minimum wage law. It proposes gradually raising the state minimum wage from $9/ hour to $15/hour by 2026.
“Historically ballot propositions don’t do all that well. Voters, maybe rightly, say, ‘If I don’t fully understand this, I’m not going to vote for it.’ On the other hand, Nebraskans have supported increases in the minimum wage before. The fact that we’ve passed it before, suggests that there might be the possibility of doing that, again.”
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