Election 2022 analysis: Nebraska eyes Unicameral party shift as races finalize

While the Legislature is nonpartisan, the issues it takes on bring the political divides into focus.
One metro school district is trying to figure out how to move forward after voters overwhelmingly rejected building a new high school.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 4:38 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As election results are finalized across the state, one of the big impacts of Tuesday’s vote is still working its way out: the political makeup of the Nebraska Legislature.

The Unicameral is considered “nonpartisan,” but may be taking more of a “red” turn.

Nebraska’s statewide races — for the most part — ended early Tuesday evening. The Bacon-Vargas race is the only one that became clearer after midnight.

Even though Vargas lost, he’ll return to the state Legislature to finish out his term. That keeps one Democrat spot in place. The same goes for Carol Blood, who may have lost the race for governor, but will return to the Legislature to serve two more years on the term.

It gets murky, though, when you start talking about the fight over who controls the Legislature.

Before Election Day, Republicans had 32 seats in the Unicam; Democrats had 17.

Republicans need 33 to stop filibusters. Nebraska’s Democratic party chair thinks the “firewall” may stay in place.

Looking at the Dist. 20 race, in the Westside district held by John McCollister — right now, Republican Stu Dornan has a 122-vote lead on Democrat John Fredrickson. If Dornan holds the lead, Republicans likely would have the supermajority.

Remember: Douglas County still has 12,000-15,000 votes to count — but only a fraction of those would be connected to this particular Legislative race.

For the Dist. 26 seat held by Lincoln State Sen. Matt Hansen, a Democrat: George Dungan, the Democrat, leads Russ Barger, the Republican, by just 61 votes.

If the winners of those races don’t win by more than one percentage point, it’s an automatic recount.

While the Legislature is nonpartisan, Nebraskans always know who belongs to which party. And the Democratic minority was able to block an abortion trigger law this spring.

And even a day Nebraskans cast their votes, the state still doesn’t know whether the balance of power has shifted and whether Governor-elect Jim Pillen will have a supermajority of Republican power in the Unicameral.