It appears that Republicans have won a majority in the Nebraska Legislature

LINCOLN — If the vote totals are anything to go by in several close races, Republicans appear to have won the majority in Tuesday’s election in Nebraska’s officially nonpartisan Legislature.

Unofficial results late Tuesday show the GOP lost one seat, a suburban Omaha seat currently held by Democratic state Sen. Steve Lathrop, in a key race in central Omaha for the seat now held by Sen. Republican John McCollister won by a narrow margin.

In another close contest, Democrat George Dungan III, a public defender, defeated Republican challenger Russ Barger, a Republican attorney, by 61 votes in a northwest Lincoln district long held by Democrats.

Unless the late vote count changes the results, the GOP will pick up one seat and hold a 33-vote majority in the unicameral legislature.

That could give Republicans the power to pass several conservative initiatives that have been blocked by filibusters in the past. These include laws that prohibit or restrict abortion, allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a state permit or state training, and state tax breaks for contributions to private schools.

The shift in the balance of power could also force changes to legislative rules that Republicans have long sought, including announcing votes for committee leadership positions instead of secret ballots.

This year’s legislative elections were marked by a number of close contests and record spending, with several candidates spending more than $100,000 for a position that pays $12,000 a year.

Some contested races

Twenty-five seats in the Legislature were up for election, and at least 11 of them—almost double the usual number—were hotly contested.

Among the results in intense competitions:

In central Omaha, attorney Stu Dornan, a Republican, has a late, 122-vote lead over realtor John Frederickson, a Democrat, to replace McColister in District 20. McColister, an independent Republican, sometimes voted with Democrats in the Legislature. Some see Dornan, a former Douglas County attorney, as a serial killer.

Former state Sen. Merv Ripe regained his old seat in District 12 in the Ralston/Millard area, unseating the seat vacated by Lathrop, a leading Democrat who was elected against a re-election bid. Riepe lost to Robin Richards, a member of the Ralston School Board.

In Omaha, three incumbent Democrats won re-election: state Sen. Machela Cavanaugh, Wendy DeBoer, and Megan Hunt. The GOP targeted these senators for defeat, but fell short.

In the 46th District in north-central Lincoln, former state Sen. Danielle Conrad regained her seat in a race against a Democrat, James Michael Bowers, a social worker.

In the northwest Omaha race to replace term-limited state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, fellow Republican Christy Armendariz defeated Democrat Michael Young, a former Metropolitan College Board member. Young won a tight three-way election by 120 votes over Armendariz, a senior strategist at the Nebraska Health System.

Two Ricketts appointees

Two recent appointees by Gov. Pete Ricketts took their seats in their first re-election bids.

In Millard County, Kathleen Kaut, a Republican businesswoman appointed to the 31st District following the death of Sen. Rich Pals, defeated her Democratic challenger, teacher Tim Royers. Royers ran a close second to Pahls in 2020, and some saw the race as a potential Democratic primary.

In North Platte, banker Mike Jacobson seemed headed for victory over Lincoln County Commissioner Chris Bruns, a fellow Republican.

Sarpy County Republican Rick Holdcroft, a Navy veteran, defeated Democrat Angie Lauritsen in District 36, a new legislative district created by redistricting. That position was held by state Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, a central Nebraska community.

In northwest Omaha’s 4th District, business developer Brad Von Gillern defeated Cindy Maxwell-Ostdiek, a nonpartisan, 52-48 percent.

Victories in open seats

Jane Raybould of Lincoln easily won the election to replace Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks; Jana Hughes of Seward, succeeding Sen. Mark Colterman; Barry DeKay of Niobrara, succeeding Sen. Tim Gragert; and Lauren Lippincott of Central City, replacing Kurt Friesen of Henderson.

Teresa Ibach of Sumner was unopposed for the open seat, which is being held by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango.

In the race to replace Sen. John Stinner, John Stinner’s Don Lees of Bridgeport was leading Brian Hardin of Gehring in early results.

In other races, incumbent Sens. Robert Clements of Elmwood, Ben Hansen of Blair, Mike Moser of Columbus, John Arch of LaVista, Myron Dorn of Adams, Tom Brandt of Plymouth and Dave Moorman of Glenville won re-election easily.

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