Coming into work at a newspaper following an election should be exciting. It should be all about who's in, who's out and what changes are on the horizon. Or at least that's what I expected. The reality was, everything stayed exactly the same. In none of the races did the incumbent lose.
Stothert took 53% of the votes, beating Democratic Challenger, Heath Mello, by 7%.
As for the Omaha City Council it wasn't even close. Festersen won 79% of the votes in District one, Gray won 62% in District two. Jerram got 79% of the votes in District three, and Melton got 65% in District seven. Councilman Pahls wasn’t even opposed District five.
Now with Thompson and Gernandt retiring we will be seeing two new faces on the City Council this June. In District four Vinny Palermo beat Jim Rogers by a narrow margin (comparatively speaking) 54 to 45, while in District six Brinker Harding took 63% of the votes leaving Dwite Pedersen with only 35%.
People have already begun speculating why Mello lost. So far most are pointing towards his position regarding abortions, despite that issue being completely outside the jurisdiction of the Mayor's Office. And I'm sure we’ll be hearing plenty more opinions over the next week. And although he only got about 45,000 votes in a city with well over 114,000 registered democrats, it was still 20% higher than the incumbent Jim Suttle saw in 2013.
No, I think when all the dust has settled the conversation is going to come back to voter turn-out in local elections. I have been present at city council debates when the idea of moving the Omaha elections to coincide with the nationals has been discussed. And when the decision is left to the politicians that benefit from the current system, it's not surprising how quickly the idea is shot down. But if you actually want to bring facts to the discussion, you’re reading the right paper.
In 2017 96,788 Omahans showed up to vote in the city election vs. 127,624 who voted in the national elections six months earlier, There were 88,567 ballots cast in 2013 vs 116,536 in 2012. The largest difference was in 2009. Smack dab in the middle of the recession only 76,482 people came out to vote. That’s barely half of the people civic-minded enough to vote in 08.