Just the slightest suggestion of chopping a chunk of Omaha voters out of a key political game they’ve played for years is raising major questions.
And it finds a top state Republican and the head of the Nebraska Democratic Party clearly at odds.
All this as the battle lines are being drawn—literally drawn— in the state’s once-every-10-year, census required, redistricting battle that finds the future of Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District first and foremost.
Republican State Senator Lou Ann Linehan, head of the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee, has raised the possibility that the 2nd District—home to GOP Congressman Don Bacon—is in talks for a previously unforeseen facelift.
With the committee expected to vote on a new map for the 2nd District yet this week, Linehan says nothing is set in concrete but adds, “I don’t know why Omaha wouldn’t enjoy having two congressmen.” Linehan alluding to a move that would send some Omaha voters from the 2nd District to the 1st Congressional District represented by Republican Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln.
Jane Kleeb, the head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, tells News Channel Nebraska Linehan’s comment is more bark than bite. “We see through the extreme map idea. It’s an old tactic used to negotiate to where they want us,” says Kleeb. “They know splitting Douglas (County) in half would never pass a court challenge. If they want to try, we are ready to go to court.”
Linehan’s maybe-map would undoubtedly lessen the number of Democratic voters in Omaha, making Bacon tougher to beat and increasing the chances that the 2nd Congressional District’s one electoral vote for President would also go Republican—it went to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020, leaving the Nebraska GOP looking for a 2024 fix.
Kleeb says, “Republicans see the (2020 census) numbers just like we do—Democrats are gaining in the 3 largest counties. The maps should reflect that reality.”
By the way “extreme map” or not, the GOP has played—and won—at least part of this game before.
Ten years ago, while redrawing maps from the 2010 census numbers the Republican controlled Legislature took an axe to parts of Sarpy County, adding Republican votes and subtracting Democrats.
In the five closely fought congressional elections that followed, the GOP won four of them.