Nebraska Libertarian Beats Out Governor’s Pick in Nonpartisan Open Primary

Don’t let anyone tell you that third party candidates do not stand a chance in nonpartisan open primaries.

Incumbent Nebraska State Sen. Laura Ebke was among the top two vote-getters in the primary election in District 32. Ebke beat out the governor’s pick, Al Riskowski, in a three-candidate race.

The incumbent senator will move on to the general election with Tom Brandt, who took the most votes in the primary.

Nebraska uses a unique primary system for state legislative races. It is a nonpartisan, top-two open primary where all candidates and voters participate on one primary ballot, and the top two vote-getters move on to the November election.

Unlike similar systems in California or Washington state, though, the candidate’s party affiliation does not appear on the ballot.

Ebke made a bold move in 2016 when she dropped her Republican Party affiliation — fed up with the direction of her party.

Many of her Republican colleagues likely tried to advise her not to break from the institutional support of the dominant party in Nebraska. But she didn’t give in. She was done with party politics.

“I got frustrated with some of my colleagues who don’t recognize civil liberties and don’t seem to agree with getting government out of people’s business,” said Ebke at the time.

Many opponents of nonpartisan open primaries often say third party and independent candidates do not stand a chance against establishment party candidates in a nonpartisan open primary. Yet Ebke was able to beat the candidate who was endorsed by the top Republican in “deep red” Nebraska.

Ebke believes hit pieces weakened her from taking the top spot in the primary, but she will be working over the next few months to regain the support of the voters she lost.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr