Lincoln mayor’s race marked by big money: A look at campaign spending

10/11 NOW discusses the finances of the Mayoral Candidates during the 2023 Lincoln General Election.
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 9:48 PM CDT|Updated: May. 2, 2023 at 9:49 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Between democratic incumbent Leirion Gaylor Baird and republican Suzanne Geist, more than $3 million has been put toward the race for Lincoln’s mayor. Here’s a breakdown of those contributions and spending, based on campaign filing documents and data from the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

Leirion Gaylor Baird:

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird has raised $1.5 million in cash donations and $70,682 in in-kind donations, most of which was raised in 2023. $1.3 million is from individual donors. The biggest donors to her campaign include a $250,000 donation by Mike Hays, CEO of NRC Health, a $55,000 donation by UNL professor and physicist John Woollam and a $15,000 donation by Susanne Shore, wife of Senator Pete Ricketts.

Gaylor Baird has also raised $235,000 in money from other sources, like PACs and organizations; this includes $75,000 from the Lincoln Firefighter’s Association.

Gaylor Baird has spent $930,000.

Suzanne Geist:

Suzanne Geist has raised $1,094,473 in cash donations and $545,055 in in-kind donations. $730,000 is from individual donors including $200,000 from the Peed family and $50,000 from Pete Ricketts. More than $912,000 of her donations are from PACs and organizations.

The biggest organizations who have donated to Geist’s campaign include $705,000 from Sandhills Global Inc., $25,000 from Dormie Networks, $25,000 from Stonebrook Exteriors and another nearly $60,000 in in-kind donations from Sandhills Global.

Geist has spent $960,000.

TV Ads:

According to public filings with the FCC, more than 6,500 commercial spots were purchased for the mayor’s race.

Gaylor Baird’s campaign purchased 3,382 spots between March 8 and May 2. Suzanne Geist’s campaign bought 1,851 commercial spots between March 22 and May 2.

Together Nebraska PAC bought 1,271 commercial spots between March 1 and May 2.

Together Nebraska:

Together Nebraska, which has supported Republican candidates, is the PAC with the most money in the state in 2023, according to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Documents show the PAC raised $860,015 for the mayor’s race in 2023. The PAC had just six donors in the last few months, four of them from the Peed family, Rhonda, Sarah, Shawn and Thomas Peed collectively donated $535,000 to the PAC. Pete Ricketts donated $300,000 and Tonn Ostergard donated $25,000.

Between the primary and general election the PAC purchased nearly $550,000 in ads opposing Gaylor Baird.

See this Flatwater Free Press article for an in-depth look at the Peed family’s political contributions.

Comparison to 2019 Election:

In 2019, Leirion Gaylor Baird ran against Jeff Kirkpatrick in the primary election and Cindi Lamm in the general election. Leirion raised less than $600,000 in that race, for a 176% increase this election.

In total, all three candidates raised just over $1 million in the 2019 race and spent just under $1 million.