Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Lincoln City Council Race

It's been a contentious term for the city government in Lincoln, with the council closely divided on practically everything. There was the controversy over the proposed use of eminent domain to acquire property for a private developer, which raised a ruckus. The whole, massive Antelope Valley Project that the acquisition was to support is being called into question, as funding and costs look grim. A large projected budget deficit will require some hard choices soon.

Last year there were endless debates on a divisive ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. The plan went back and forth, and ultimately was kicked out to the voters as a referendum, which passed. It took effect January 1, and there is already talk of repealing it. Not long ago one council member (Terry Werner) accused two others (Ken Svboda and Glenn Friendt) of racism for questioning the qualifications of a candidate for a city job.

The best we can say about Werner is that he makes the mayor look good by comparison. A self-proclaimed advocate of "social justice," he led the fight to pass council resolutions on such critical city issues as the USA PATRIOT Act and the war in Iraq. He also was the architect of the "fair wage" ordinance that forced city contractors to pay higher salaries (and city government to pay higher fees to cover them, of course).

Yesterday was a primary election with 20 candidates contending for 6 spots on the ballot for 3 at-large seats. Werner (D) and Svoboda (R) are both up for re-election, and Friendt decided not to run again, so one seat is wide open. Amidst the political storm, but otherwise good weather, the voters of Lincoln managed a whopping turnout of 19.3%. You should have seen the throngs in the street waving their purple fingers in the air. No... wait... that was Iraq.

Svoboda and Werner finished first and second, respectively, with Republican newcomer Robin Eschliman close behind. Also moving on to the next round are Dan Marvin (D), Mark Kohler (R), and Shawn Traudt (R) in that order.

The general election is May 3, and if Werner holds his seat, the best the Republicans can do is break even, as the open seat was formerly Friendt's. Since 4 of the 6 are Republicans, it could help the 2 Democrats in the general election, because each voter can select three candidates. On the other hand the entire Republican field got over 60% of the votes in the primary vs. just under 36% for the Democratic field. The Green Party candidate pulled in 2% and two independent/unaffiliated candidates got the rest. Given the low turnout, this may not mean much for the general election.

Read more about the races in the Lincoln Journal Star Online.

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