Nebraska Legislature — races to watch on Tuesday

Nebraska Legislature — races to watch on Tuesday

By Paul Hammel May 14, 2012 6:44 pm Comments

Twenty-five seats in the 49-seat Nebraska Legislature are up for grabs this year and Tuesday’s primary could tell us a lot about the mood of the voters.

 Is there a “get rid of incumbents” streak out there, like there seems to be with the U.S. Congress?

 Are voters comfortable with the Legislature’s controversial decisions to restore prenatal care for illegal immigrants and allow cities, with voter approval, to raise local sales taxes by a half cent?

 And, can a couple of recent appointees of Gov. Dave Heineman withstand some stilff challenges in their districts?

 A veteran lobbyist has said that appointed senators are like barn cats — you’d better not get too attached to them.

 But will voters feel the same way about Sen. Dave Bloomfield in northeast Nebraska’s 17th District and Sen. Paul Lambert in the 2nd District in Cass County, just south of Omaha.

Bloomfield was a soft-spoken legislator,  but will get a stiff challenge from a trio of candidates in his district, including Van Phillips, the former superintendent of schools in South Sioux City, the district’s largest city. Some think Bloomfield won’t get out of the primary.

 Lambert was more talkative, weighing in on issues like the half-cent sales tax bill and another to maintain a tax-exemption for cities who finance buildings via non-profit leasing corporations. But the former Plattsmouth mayor has five opponents, including Robyn Larson, the mother of current Sen. Tyson Larson.

 Other questions:

 – can incumbent Ken Haar out-poll a well-financed pro-life opponent, Mike Hilgers, in District 21 in northern Lancaster County? The primary results will tell us a lot about what to expect in November.

 – ditto with Omaha’s District 11, where incumbent Sen. Brenda Council will face off with former Sen. Ernie Chambers? Will Ernie have to do some campaigning to win? He said he did do campaign signs way back in the ’70s. But he won several re-election bids by just filing for the office.

 – who emerges from a seven-candidate field in District 43 in Nebraska’s Sand Hills to replace Sen. Deb Fischer, who is term-limited  but in a hot race for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. Could a non-rancher win that seat?

 The U.S. Senate race is getting almost all of the primary chatter this year. And we’ll find out Tuesday if Fischer’s purported late surge is enough to overcome the early lead amassed by Atttorney General Jon Bruning and the solid base of State Treasurer Don Stenberg.

 It would be an epic upset if Fischer pulls it out. It would confirm what some say about Bruning’s support among Republicans — that it’s like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep.