Political science professor talks big issues, observes 2022 midterm race

LINCOLN, Neb. (COLIN) – After Election Day, there are some big races and ballot propositions to look for when you’re at the voting booth. 10/11 spoke with University of Nebraska political science professor John Hibbing to learn more about these initiatives and what races to watch.

Places on the line in these elections range from the governor’s office, congressional districts and even the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office.

In Lancaster County, incumbent attorney Pat Condon and former state legislator Adam Morfeld are vying for the title of district attorney. Hibbing calls the competition fascinating.

“Lincoln may lean Democratic, the city itself; but the city of Lincoln is not all of Lancaster County,” Hibbing said. “You move outside of that into a few of the small towns that go around Lincoln, and then you get into more conservative areas. So the countywide races have leaned Republican in recent years, but Adam Morfeld, of course, is well known as a state legislator for eight years. In other ways as well, he is running a very vigorous campaign. So I know the Condon forces are nervous about this race.

In the state, party registration change has not returned to previous numbers. Some Nebraska Democrats have registered as Republicans to vote for their GOP primary choice. Hibbing isn’t sure if the people who switched will vote for Republican candidate Jim Pilen for governor.

“It’s hard to ignore what happened in the last statewide election in Nebraska, which is that the Republicans won, and they usually won pretty easily. I think Carol Blood ran a really good campaign and did everything she could,” Hibbing said. “Will that be enough to offset the huge advantage in party registration, which also translates into a big advantage in campaign finance: the amount of money each candidate has had to spend.”

Hibbing is calling the race for Congressional District 2 between Republican Don Bacon and Democratic challenger Tony Vargas the real election in Nebraska. Hibbing said while Bacon is well known in the district, which includes Sarpy and Douglas counties, Vargas is a serious contender.

In Congressional District 1, which includes Lancaster County, Hibbing noted the past few elections, saying that while Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks has come close, the district has typically gone Republican and incumbent Congressman Mike Flood.

“This district is generally Republican. You go way back, Doug Bereuter held the seat forever. Fortenberry had it for many, many terms. So, you know, if you’re asking for predictions, you just have to look at the past and say, ‘Well, it would be an upset for Pansing Brooks to beat Flood, given what’s happened in the area in the past,'” he said. Hibbing. “Lincoln, of course, leans toward the Democrats, not by a large margin, but by a little. But Lincoln is only part of the first congressional district, as opposed to the second district, where Omaha really dominates.

Hibbing will track more than just the candidates’ races. There are two main ballot propositions that voters will decide.

Initiatives 432 and 433 would ask voters to approve voter photo identification and increase the state’s minimum wage law.

Initiative 432, the photo ID initiative, asks voters to approve a change to the state constitution to require qualified voters to present a valid photo ID when voting.

“It’s a little unclear,” Hibbing said. “One factor is that he’s just saying that the Legislature will figure out all the details of how the photo ID will work, what exactly will be required and things like that. It’s nice to have a little more specificity when you go to the polling place. So I guess you have to trust the legislature to sort this all out.

Initiative 433, the Minimum Wage Initiative, proposes a change to Nebraska’s minimum wage law. It proposes a gradual increase in the state minimum wage from $9/hour to $15/hour by 2026.

“Historically, ballot propositions don’t do that well. Voters, perhaps rightly, say, “If I don’t fully understand this, I won’t vote for it.” On the other hand, Nebraskans have supported minimum wage increases before. The fact that we’ve been through it before suggests there may be an opportunity to do it again.

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