Six-figure party fights mark key NE legislative campaigns


Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

It only pays $12,000 a year but a seat in the Nebraska Legislature continues to fuel high priced, in some cases six-figure, campaign fights.

Take a look at four Omaha area battles where all that non-partisan talk is just that, talk.

District 8, north-central Omaha.

Incumbent Democrat Burke Harr vs. the GOP’s Gwenn Aspen.

Aspen, backed by Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, defeated Harr in the May 13 primary 51 percent to 49 percent: a difference of 90 votes.IMG_6512

But both Democrats and Republicans agree the outcome was a bit skewed as Republican voters turned out for hotly contested races for governor, U.S. Senate and the Omaha House while many Democrats, with uncontested races at the top of their ticket, stayed home.

According to the latest state campaign reports, Harr has shelled out nearly $142,000 and has $69,000 cash on hand. One of Harr’s largest contributors is the state teachers union—the Nebraska State Education Association has given Harr nearly $12,000.

Aspen has spent $67,000 and has nearly $25,000 for the stretch run. Among her better known contributors are Stothert, who contributed $1,000, and Gov. Dave Heineman who has put in $3,000.

District 6, west-central Omaha.

IMG_6505Battling for this open seat are Republican Joni Craighead and Democrat John Stalnaker.

The two survived a four-way primary: Craighead finishing on top with 26 percent of the vote while Stalnaker was second with 24 percent.IMG_6507

Craighead has raised $101,000 and goes into the final weeks of the race with $60,000 in the bank. Her single largest contributor is the Nebraska Realtors Political Action Committee which has poured $35,250 into her war chest.

Stalnaker has raised $78,000 and has $31,000 cash on hand; his top contributor is the NSEA to the tune of $5,670.

District 20, Central Omaha

IMG_6502Two well known last names, Lathrop and McCollister, are looking to fill the seat held for the past eight years by Democratic Congressional hopeful Brad Ashford.IMG_6497

Republican John McCollister—son of former Congressman John Y. McCollister—picked up 49 percent of the vote to finish first in a three-way primary. Democrat Matt Lathrop—State Sen. Steve Lathrop’s brother— finished second with 32 percent of the vote.

McCollister has raised $115,000 and has $72,000 in the bank. His single largest contributor his dad: $10,000.

Lathrop has raised $106,000 and has $54,000 cash on hand. Lathrop’s single largest contributor is the state teachers union at nearly $16,000.

District 3, Bellevue.

Incumbent Republican Tommy Garrett, who was appointed by the governor, edged Bellevue City Council member Carol Blood in the primary by 41 votes: It was Garrett 51 percent to Blood’s 49 percent.

Garrett rolls into the final weeks of the campaign having spent $40,000 with nearly $15,000 in the bank. The Chambers of Commerce (Omaha and Nebraska) have led the way kicking-in $7,500 to Garrett’s campaign.

Blood’s latest campaign finance report was not immediately available—stay tuned and we will bring it to you.

According to her mid-June report she had spent $15,000 with $1,300 in the bank.

If you’re wondering where all this money goes some will wind up in radio ads, but the bulk will be in your mailbox: campaign flyers—some friendly, some not so friendly.

Contact Joe Jordan at

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday morning at 7:40, KLIN in Lincoln every Tuesday morning at 7:35 and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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