Elections for Nebraska Legislature again reward hard workers

Elections for Nebraska Legislature again reward hard workers

By Paul Hammel November 8, 2012 6:51 pm Comments

When all the campaign contributions are tallied for the 2012 elections, they’ll likely smash all records for spending on state legislative races.

But Tuesday’s results again confirmed that those who work hardest usually win.

The most fiercely contested races in the state were won by those who knocked on the most doors, put up the signs and connected best with voters.


Kate Bolz of Lincoln, for instance, figured she criss-crossed her district four times in her win over Larry Zimmerman.

Bolz, a Democrat and a Presbyterian, won election to what’s known as “the Catholic district” of the Unicameral, because it’s been held by pro-life, Republican senators of that faith for 24 years.

Another traditionally Republican district, in the Millard area of Omaha, fell to  Democrat Rick Kolowski, a former Millard West High School principal. His familiarity probably helped, but he also credited hard work for edging the Gop candidate, Acela Turco.

The door-to-door routine also worked for Sue Crawford, a Democrat who won in Bellevue, State Sen. Ken Haar, who out-lasted attorney Mike Hilgers in a political slugfest in northwest Lincoln, and Bill Kintner, who defeated Sen. Paul Lambert to represent Cass County and parts of Sarpy and Otoe counties.

It was not a great night for Gov. Dave Heineman, who worked overtime for the opponents of Bolz, Kolowski, Crawford and Haar and ended up losing those races.

He also endorsed a loser in the Sand Hills, where Hyannis rancher Al Davis overcame a 1,400-vote deficit in the primary — primarily by knocking on doors and visiting communities in the vast, 43rd District — to defeat a fellow Republican, John Ravenscroft of Valentine.

But the governor, a political animal who once headed the state GOP, got some wins, too. He backed Kintner who defeated a senator, Paul Lambert, that Heineman had appointed to the Legislature a year ago. The gov switched allegiances after Lambert changed his mind and voted to override the governor’s veto of a sales tax bill.

It should also be mentioned that Kintner’s wife, Lauren, is Heineman’s long-time head of his policy research office. But still, it was a surprise that a predominately Cass County district would select a candidate who lives outside the county, Kintner.

The governor also backed Wahoo Mayor Jerry Johnson in his successful bid for the Legislature, as well as Dan Watermeier in southeast Nebraska and John Murante in Gretna. A couple of Heineman appointees — who maintain his support — also won, Sen. Dave Bloomfield in northeast Nebraska and Les Seiler in Hastings.

And Sen. Beau McCoy of west Omaha, one of the governor’s most consistent backers, easily won his re-election bid. So it wasn’t a totally bad election for the governor.

But the biggest change will come with the return of State Sen. Ernie Chambers of north Omaha.

Chambers had been tossed out due to term limits four years ago after serving a record 38 years in the Unicameral. But he roared to a 2-to-1 victory over incumbent Sen. Brenda Council, who was politically wounded by her problems with gambling and illegally borrowing money from her campaign account.

Chambers, an independent whose command of the rules and pace of action in the Legislature are unmatched, likely would have won his race anyway. But it would have been much closer had not Council’s problems emerged.

Like a linebacker who eats running backs for lunch, Chambers pounces on bills he doesn’t like and slows down, and even halts, their advancement. Senators — two thirds of which have never served with Chambers — will learn quickly that they’ll have to deal with Chambers if they want bills to pass.

And the return of the self-proclaimed “defender of the downtrodden” would seem to bode ill for the governor’s agenda, which includes providing income tax breaks for business owners and repealing a law that provides prenatal services for unborn babies of illegal immigrants.

Overall, the Democrats gained a net of two seats in the Legislature, but are still out-numbered in the Legislature by Republicans 30-17. There are two independents.  Interesting days are ahead.