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Posts from the ‘Campaign trail’ Category


Dems clean house in Lincoln

With all of Lincoln’s 195 precincts counted, the Democrats cleaned up in Lincoln last night — from Mayor Chris Beutler walking away with a landslide to three of the four council seats going to Democrats to a 26-year-old newcomer defeating an incumbent to get elected to the airport authority.

That means Lincoln now has a Democratic mayor and a City Council loaded with five Democrats, and two Republicans. One Republican and two Democrats were added to the School Board.

It was a good night to be a Dem:

Democratic Mayor Beutler easily defeated Republican Tammy Buffington, 65 percent to 35 percent.

• Incumbent Democrat Doug Emery walloped Republican Melissa Hilty, 67 to 32 percent.

• Incumbent Jon Camp was the rare Republican who nabbed a victory over Democrat Bobbie Kosmicki, 56 to 44 percent.

• Incumbent Democrat Jonathan Cook beat Republican Travis Nelson, 64 to 36 percent.

• Newcomer Democrat Carl Eskridge leads Republican Chad Wright, 51 to 49 percent.

• Former county treasurer and Republican Richard Nuernberger and newcomer and 26-year-old Democrat Anna Wishart were elected to the Airport Authority.

Republican incumbent School Board member Richard Meginnis batted back challenger Christina Buccholz, 51 to 49 percent — that one might even be close enough to challenge.

Democrat Katie McLeese Stephenson clobbered Republican Angela Hogan, 61 to 38 percent, to win a seat on the School Board.

Democrat School Board member Ed Zimmer ran unopposed.

As I said on Jack & John this morning, this is how a political party can change its fortunes on the statewide level. Some day some of these office-holders will move up to higher offices (Anna Wishart, I’m lookin at you!), and that’s how you turn a ship around. So if you don’t think the election results matter much in the grand scheme of things, you’re dead wrong.


Today will be the Day of Democrats and incumbents

It’s not that you shouldn’t vote. You should definitely vote.

It’s just that it’s pretty clear today will be the day of Democrats winning all over the city. My predictions:

• Incumbent Democrat Doug Emery will win handily in District 1 over newcomer Melissa Hilty, whose lack of yard signs in northeast Lincoln indicates a lack of either a) money or b) enthusiasm.
• Incumbent Republican Jon Camp will win — although not as easily as he would have, given fellow Republican and arena watchdog Jane Kinsey’s late write-in entry into the race, which will chip away at his lead over Democrat Bobbi Kosmicki. It could be a tense night for Camp.
• Incumbent Democrat Jonathan Cook will win District 3 by a wide margin over Republican Travis Nelson, who has been tarred and feathered by the state Democratic Party for having financial problems.
• No incumbents in District 4 — but Democrat Carl Eskridge should win quite easily over Chad Wright, whose late surge (and infusion of money) won’t be enough. Although Eskridge didn’t exactly bring new ideas to the table, he seems like a sensible man whose gentle temperment and conciliatory background will be welcome.
Mayor Chris Beutler will win in a landslide over newcomer Tammy Buffington — and this might be a good time for the Republicans to start recruiting a more viable candidate for the next mayoral election. Tammy is a nice person, but she’s in over her head.

Airport Authority
• Here’s how easy it is for an incumbent to get re-elected: Republican Richard Nuernberger, who served as county treasurer for 32 years, doesn’t even have a yard sign in front of his own house. I don’t know if he’s done a single thing to campaign. And yet, his name is so familiar to voters that they’ll elect him today.
• The Democrats have put so much time, effort and money behind 26-year-old newcomer and Democrat Anna Wishart that I expect she’ll defeat incumbent Republican Chris Hove. Wishart knows what Buffington doesn’t: You gotta start small and work your way up.

So there you have it! The new City Council most likely will have five Democrats and two Republicans. Jon Camp and Adam Hornung will be like gnats on Beutler’s backside… as he positions himself to run for governor in three years. Unless, of course, you voters had something else in mind…


Camp gives one last blast before today’s municipal election

Councilman Jon Camp held a press conference yesterday to decry the negative campaigning state Democrats have waged in an effort to unseat the incumbent Republican, who has held his seat for a dozen years.

Councilman Jon Camp

Here’s the press release:

Today, I want to speak to you about a very important issue facing Lincoln politics, the complete degradation of Lincoln’s political elections—as exemplified by the 3 attack pieces mailed to my constituents in the last few days.
Before I start, I want to assure you that if there is reason to criticize my true record, I consider that a “clean hit” and would not be addressing you today. Officeholders need to be held accountable for the actions taken as elected officials and I am fine with that.
However, what I am going to discuss with you today is the total opposite of legitimate criticism. It is the manufacturing of distortions and outright lies at the last minute in an election cycle, to scare voters away from a candidate. It is a tactic that is embraced by those who have little regard for the intelligence of the voter and it is a tactic birthed by the greed and self interest of those who paid for it.
Within the last three days, the Nebraska Democrat Party created and mailed three attack pieces to my City Council district, knowing full well that they were filled with lies. The pieces were so blatantly distorted, that the Lincoln Journal Star gave them a clear rebuke in its April 29th editorial.
Unfortunately for the citizens of Lincoln, certain leaders in the Nebraska Democrat Party lack integrity. In these three instances, the Nebraska Democrat Party has become an agent for a special interest group that wants to attack me. This is an insult to most Democrats who believe in conducting campaigns with honesty and integrity.
I have many Democratic friends who support my candidacy and I have high regard for many of the public servants who are part of the Democratic Party. I know that most Democrats do not approve of this type of behavior. The time has come for these fine Democrats to contact the Nebraska Democrat Party and remind them that this is Lincoln, Nebraska—not Chicago—and demand that Nebraska integrity be observed during political campaigns. The citizens of Lincoln deserve better.
In addition to this, I want to share the second reason these mailings are so troubling. I have reason to believe that the entire effort was paid for by the Lincoln Firefighters Union, which wrote a check for $30,000 to the Nebraska Democrat Party in March 2011 to pay for these last minute smear mailings. I have been assured by Mayor Beutler’s campaign that none of the $14,000 his campaign contributed to the Nebraska Democrat Party went to this type of campaigning.
The question needs to be asked: Why did the leaders of the Lincoln Firefighters Union, whose members want to be viewed as life saving heroes, throw integrity out the window and fabricate lies against a sitting City Council Member and try to buy an election with their huge contribution?
There can be only one reason, in the past, I have told them “NO”. I have refused to be bullied, manipulated and pushed into labor contracts that are incredibly expensive. I have stood strong for the taxpayers of Lincoln, while making certain that our citizens were safe.
In my opinion, the leaders of the Lincoln Firefighters’ Union want weak public servants that they can manipulate. They want puppets that they can control so they will give them more today, more tomorrow and more in years to come, regardless of the cost to the citizens of Lincoln. The Lincoln Firefighters’ Union wants a blank check from taxpayers and when you stand against their excessive wants, they resort to distasteful campaign tactics.
In my twelve years of service on the Lincoln City Council, when it was right, I have told them “NO”. I hope the voters of Lincoln tell them “No” on Election Day, May 3rd, and that the citizens of Lincoln will not be manipulated by these underhanded tactics.
With regard to the three mailings, I’d like to conclude with this statement:
1. I have one of the best attendance records on the Council;
2. I have never put my personal interests above that of the citizens of Lincoln;
3. I am deeply concerned about public safety; and
4. I have worked tirelessly to make sure that proper research and intelligence is gathered before our council acts on all matters of public concern.
You can count on Jon Camp being a “watch dog” for the citizens and taxpayers of Lincoln–I will never be a “lap dog” for ANY special interest group, especially those who want a blank check from the taxpayers.


Some GOP arena supporters irked by Beutler email appeal

Last week, a Republican arena supporter (there were many of them) forwarded me an email he received from a supporter of Mayor Chris Beutler’s urging him to donate to Beutler’s campaign and vote for Beutler tomorrow.

What was curious to him was that the author apparently tapped the old pro-arena database to send out this mass e-mail, which said, in part:

Mayor Beutler’s leadership and determination were critical in getting the Arena passed. Now, he is less than a week away from his own re-election campaign and he is being attacked for his support of the Haymarket Arena by the same nay-sayers who’ve always opposed the Arena.

Although Arena construction has begun, there is still a tremendous amount of work left to be done. Lincoln needs Mayor Beutler’s steady hand and leadership to ensure that the project is completed on time, on budget, and to ensure it’s full potential is realized.

The email was sent by Phil Montag, who was part of the “Citizens for Jobs and the Lincoln Haymarket Arena” or YES group (who’s against jobs? I always wondered). The recipient of the email was bothered by it, because he said during the arena campaign, many Republicans signed on to the YES campaign even though it was being run by the usual band of Democratic PR pros. They were assured the database wouldn’t be used for political purposes down the road, he said.

Of course, it was. In that case, an in-kind contribution should be recorded somewhere in campaign finance reports. We’ll see if it shows up.


Buffington YouTube campaign video overblows budget gap — big time

A Democratic Facebook friend of mine was arguing with me the other day that local Republicans have a history of being just as brutal as Dems when it comes to dirty campaigns.

Tammy Buffington

As proof, he mentioned Americans for Prosperity pouring thousands into Lincoln to personally attack and try to unseat Sen. Danielle Conrad, former Republican Councilman Glenn Friendt attempting to covertly finance a smear campaign against former Democratic Councilman Terry Werner years ago, and some current YouTube videos of Republican mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington’s.

YouTube videos? I’d never seen them, so I checked them out. I found several. In one, she points out that while Mayor Chris Beutler often brags about cutting 120 city jobs, in reality only five were pure layoffs. The rest were basically vacancies left unfilled. She also has a video talking about how Beutler thinks it’s big stuff to rehab eight miles of roads in Lincoln when the city has more than 2,000 miles of roadways — but still wants to spend a whopping $14 million to rebuild about two miles of roadway and build a roundabout at 14th and Superior.

I didn’t think any of the videos were nasty: They focused on actual issues — as opposed to the character assassinations the state Democratic Party is financing.

However, I was intrigued by two of the videos about the city’s budget deficit. In both of them, Buffington says the city has a $720 million budget deficit. Holy hell that’s a big number! Just one problem: it’s not accurate. The city’s entire tax-funded budget is about $130 million. The actual projected deficit is about $6.3 million (although several expenses aren’t included in that estimate, so it’s probably larger).

Buffington and her campaign manager disagree with me: They say she’s referring to $600 million in street debt, the $60 million unfunded liability for police and fire pensions and the city’s $60 million backlog of sidewalk work. I agree with their numbers for the pension fund and sidewalk backlog, but I have no idea where they get a $600 million “unfunded liability” for streets.

They said it’s semantics: I say a “shortfall” is a lot different than adding up all the infrastructure work we wish the city could do, all the work we NEED to do and calling it a shortfall. You can decide for yourself.

See it here:

Now I know from experience it’s easy to trip over your tongue and make a mistake during a debate or a press interview (I myself accidentally said the city had a $200 billion — rather than million — infrastructure shortfall during a TV interview). However, this was a campaign video, not a live interview. Apparently, nobody in her campaign noticed the error before the video went up.

So while I don’t see the carpet bombing campaign that my Facebook friend sees in the videos, I do think Buffington shot herself in the foot.


Street laborers’ union refuses to endorse mayoral candidate

The union that represents laborers in the city’s street maintenance division has refused to endorse either of the two candidates running for mayor on Tuesday.

The union is called the Public Association of Government Employees, or PAGE, and represents about 500 blue-collar, clerical and technical workers. It also represents laborers who were the subject of our special report last week, detailing the bullying and infighting that have plagued the streets division for years.

PAGE union President Jeff Stump

PAGE President Jeff Stump said the union doesn’t think either of the mayoral candidates is qualified.

“We feel Tammy Buffington doesn’t have the experience and her views on the commission (CIR) and unions are not something that we agree with and as far as Mayor Beutler we can’t endorse him because of issues in the street department that he has failed to address after a year and a half.”

Those issues, he said, are bullying, harassment and inadequate training — all the things detailed in our special report.

The union also declined to endorse a candidate in District 1, northeast Lincoln. Stump said they didn’t endorse Democrat Doug Emery because “he’ not a qualified candidate” and after promising not to “come after our pension” Stump said the first thing Emery did after getting elected was start working on reducing city employees’ retirement benefits.

“The first thing he came after was our pensions,” Stump said.

The union endorsed the Democrats in two districts: Jonathan Cook in southwest Lincoln and Carl Eskridge in northwest Lincoln. The union did not endorse anyone in the southeast Lincoln district, where incumbent Jon Camp is running against newcomer Bobbi Kosmicki.

“We just don’t feel that we know enough about them,” he said.


More nasty Democratic mailings — who’s paying for them?

This is shaping up to be quite possibly the most negative campaign the Democrats have ever waged on Republicans in Lincoln. What do you think? I’m hearing about negative mailings going out left and right.

The Dems are now attacking incumbent Councilman Jon Camp, who is up for re-election on Tuesday. They sent out a ridiculous looking mailing (Camp mailing, address side) (Back side)Thursday with Camp apparently in some kind of Russian garb, dancing some kind of jig.

They nailed him for missing a budget meeting to take a Russian vacation and allegedly missing 16 City Council meetings (in what time frame? his entire 12-year tenure? One year? That would be good to know). I think it’s legitimate to talk about an incumbent’s attendance record, but the Russian jig thing is sophomoric. The mailer — once again, paid for by the Nebraska Democratic Party — claims Camp has the worst attendance record on the council and directs people to check out this website: here. It’s hard to know how much of this stuff is even accurate anymore, given the half-truths and exaggerations they put out in their mailing about Travis Nelson.

Camp expects more mailings targeting him in the next few days before the election on Tuesday. His opponent, Bobbi Kosmicki, had an unexpectedly strong showing in the primary election, trailing Camp by just 1,100 votes, or 15 percentage points — not bad for a virtual unknown in Lincoln politics — and the Democrats apparently smell blood. Although news of her bankruptcy last year might hurt.

An attack (img-428173755-0001) also went out hitting Republican Chad Wright, who’s running in District 4, northwest Lincoln. This mailing calls him “No Show Chad Wright” and claims he “just” moved to Lincoln four years ago, allowed radical, out-of-state special interests to bankroll his campaign to the tune of $50,000 and “didn’t have a business” in Lincoln until last year.

I can’t find any evidence of a $50,000 contribution to Wright’s campaign anywhere in state records, and a Republican official tells me Wright has had his business since 2007, although it wasn’t incorporated until last year.

Who’s paying for this smear campaign? Well, let’s see. The Lincoln firefighters’ union PAC gives the Democratic Party a whopping $30,000 in March. Another huge contributor has been Mayor Chris Beutler, who has donated at least $14,000 to the state party to make sure his fellow Democrats get elected — despite all his talk about reducing partisan rancor and his disdain for even mentioning which party council members belong to. I guess if you have nothing but Democrats on the council, that would reduce partisan bickering…

Kosmicki donated $1,500 to the Democratic party April 1, and then the Dems spent $1,500 to send out a mailing in support of her.

This all feels a little like money laundering, doesn’t it? Donate money to the party and then wash your hands of the dirty little mailings the party sends out. The mayor, Kosmicki and anyone else who donates to the state Democratic Party should own it: They’re paying for this dirty campaign, no matter how clean they think their hands are.


Council candidate accused in domestic incident 11 years ago

Travis Nelson is running for the City Council.

When City Council candidate Travis Nelson was targeted by Democrats for having money problems, he fought back with a press statement defending his reputation.

He also subtly launched a pre-emptive strike, in case the Dems intended to go after another blemish on his record: A “domestic” between he and his girlfriend in 2000, when they lived on 27th Street.

According to the Lincoln Police Department’s incident report, police were called to 1905 S. 27th St. after the incident at about 2:30 in the morning in mid-December.
The police report describes the incident as a “domestic argument” between Nelson and his then-girlfriend, Mary Jo Spicka, who is a Lincoln firefighter. The report says there was “pushing, scratches” and that Spicka had an abrasion on the “left forear.” Spicka is identified as the victim in the report.

Lancaster County Court records indicate he was convicted of disturbing the peace and sentenced to one year of probation. In a press statement earlier this week, Nelson said the conviction stemmed “an argument with his former wife prior to their marriage.”

Nelson served probation and completed an alcohol rehabilitation program. He has since remarried, to Ronda Smith Nelson, and has a 6-year-old son (Spicka’s son).

“I fully accept responsibility for my role in the situation,” Nelson said in his press statement. “That event made me take serious stock of my life and changed it forever, for the good.”

Nelson is running against incumbent Democrat Jonathan Cook in District 3, southwest Lincoln.


Nelson says Dems are wrong: he paid his child support, attorney’s bill

City Council candidate Travis Nelson released state records today that he says prove the state Democratic Party sent out a mailing that wrongly accuses him of failing to pay his child support since 2009.

Travis Nelson is running for the City Council.

Nelson released this document (nelson child support pg 1), which he said shows he has made his payments on time. He said he is considering suing the Democratic Party for “lying about my personal record of paying child support.”

“This is a false accusation against me personally,” he said in a press release. “It is untrue that I have not paid my child support for my son who is so important to me.”

Vic Covalt, chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, has not returned a phone call seeking comment on Nelson’s assertion. The state Democratic Party paid for the mailing that went out late last week accusing Nelson of failing to pay child support, owing his divorce lawyer thousands and having a small claims judgment against him for money he owed Pella. Nelson works in construction. Nelson said he has also paid the attorney’s fees and Pella — which he described as a “complicated mess” because the company supplied the wrong size windows. He called the allegations “red herrings.”

A few days prior, the county Republican Party sent out a mailing pointing out that his opponent, incumbent Democrat Jonathan Cook, had failed to attend 80 percent of City-County “Common” meetings.

“My opponent was attacked on his public record of not showing up for his city council job,” Nelson said in the release. “I was wrongly attacked for things that occurred in my personal life and that is inexcusable and a below-the-belt kind of hit. My opponent has proven to voters that he doesn’t even show up for the job they elected him to do. I show up to work every day,”

Nelson said it’s not easy being a small home remodeler and contractor during a tough economy.

“Like thousands of workers in Lincoln, these are tough times and we have struggled. But I show up every day and I pay my bills. This game-playing with false accusations made against me personally are an insult to me and the voters of the 3rd City Council District.”

On another issue, Nelson today also acknowledged he was charged with disturbing the peace 11 years ago, “stemming from an argument with his former wife prior to their marriage.” Nelson served probation and completed an alcohol rehabilitation program.

“I fully accept responsibility for my role in the situation,” Nelson said in his press release. “That event made me take serious stock of my life and changed it forever, for the good.”

“My campaign has been about the issues important to voters. I’m proud of my family business, I’m proud of my family, and I’m proud of how I’ve dealt with the personal challenges I’ve had to face and conquer,” Nelson said.


Dems’ smear campaign begins

Well, here it is. The ugliest piece of campaign literature I’ve seen so far in this spring’s municipal election campaign: The Nebraska Democratic Party send out a mailing late last week bashing the Republican candidate for the City Council, in District 3. The headline: “Travis Nelson can’t manage his own money.”

Their evidence? He hasn’t paid his child support since July 2009. He owes his divorce attorney nearly $5,400. And he owes Pella $2,700, according to a small claims judgment in county court. Ouch.

This is the deal, folks. If you want to run for elective office around here, you’d better not have any skeletons in your closet, because they will find them. The Democrats are particularly good at digging up this kind of dirt. You may recall in the last City Council race, the Dems dogged Republican Adam Hornung for not paying the wheel tax on a pickup that he said was his father’s (who lives in another county).

I remember well the Dems’ press conference, during which they showed reporters pictures they’d taken of Hornung’s SUV in the parking lot of the law firm he works at. I wondered a) how they identified this potential chink in Hornung’s armor and b) was the head of the Democratic Party out skulking around in the parking lot, trying to get the photo?

This is what it’s come to. Somebody runs for office, and the other party sets about digging up dirt on them. To be fair, the Republicans actually launched the first salvo in the District 3 race, sending out a mailing noting that incumbent Councilman Jonathan Cook has missed 80 percent of City-County “Common” meetings.

Is that relevant? I think it is.

Is the fact that Nelson might have money problems relevant? The Dems’ mailer thinks so, asking people, “What kind of City Council member do you want? Responsible? Trustworthy? Budget Conscious? Travis Nelson IS NONE OF THESE THINGS.”

Does this mean the Democratic candidate in District 2, Bobbi Kosmicki, is not fit for office, too — given the news that she filed for bankruptcy last year?

I find it ironic that Democratic State Chairman Vic Covalt thinks it’s OK to do this kind of dirt-digging and spreading — considering he represents people in bankruptcy for a living. When I was a reporter, Covalt and I had several conversations about how The System treats poor people. I specifically remember him telling me I should go down to the courthouse every Friday and watch the parade of people who basically can’t afford to pay for things like car insurance and registration.

He fights for those people. And yet, in his other life as head of the Democratic Party — the party that ostensibly fights for the little guy — he slams a guy who can’t pay his bills for having the audacity to run for elective office.

I see hypocrisy in that. Do Vic and the Dems believe anybody who’s ever struggled financially — or at least to the point of it becoming a public record in a court of law — should not run for office? Is that the standard? Should it be? You tell me.

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