The power of incumbency and the legislative elections

Two appointed incumbents and two who were previously term-limited tried to make a comeback during Nebraska’s general election. In many cases they were bolstered by funds from the Governor who dug deep this year. Pete Ricketts and his family spent nearly a million dollars on legislative races and ballot issues.

Appointed members Julie Slama in southeast Nebraska’s Legislative District 1 and Andrew La Grone in the Gretna area faced stiff challenges. Both are Republicans in the officially non-partisan Legislature. Slama defeated Republican Janet Palmtag of Syracuse. Le Grone lost his District 49 seat to challenger Democrat Jen Day who had also outpolled him in the primary.

The District 1 race had some of the most vile advertising—directed at Palmtag—ever seen in a Nebraska legislative election and represented a split in the Grand Old Party. Ricketts backed Slama and former Gov. Dave Heineman supported Palmtag. At one point, the Nebraska Public Service Commission intervened to force the state Republican Party to stop robocalls that Palmtag alleged were not factual. Former governors and congressional representatives weighed in on Palmtag’s side to condemn advertising mailers they called “race baiting” and the party tactics.


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