Primary voters in Lincoln Tuesday narrowed two City Council races and set the stage for at least one dead-heat bout in May's general election.
Weighing candidates for the four geographic council districts, primary voters' choices set up partisan fights in the officially nonpartisan May 7 election.
In the race for the northeast District 1 seat, Democrat James Michael Bowers received just 11 more votes than his opponent Taylor Wyatt, a Republican. Cyndi Lamm, who holds the seat, is running for mayor and advanced to the general election.
"I was always expected to work hard and to learn to never take anything for granted," said Bowers, a school social worker who announced his run in November.
Wyatt, a real estate agent who entered the race last month, said he’s excited and thankful for the volunteers who helped him, but realizes they’ve got work to do going forward.
“We’re going to go out and talk to as many voters as we can and make sure they know their vote matters,” he said, calling Tuesday's results direct evidence.
Bowers plans to continue stressing his priorities for affordable housing and better streets in the district and to fight to ensure the district isn't forgotten, he said.
Wyatt said his message will include what he's heard from voters: fixing streets and ensuring the city spends tax dollars wisely.
In 2015, Lamm, a Republican, won the district by a margin of just more than 200 votes against a Democratic challenger.
Tuesday's primary narrowed two other district races to replace council members Jon Camp and Carl Eskridge, who opted not to seek re-election.
In southeast Lincoln, Democrat Megan Stock, a Lincoln Public Schools teacher, was the top vote-getter, at 40%, in a district Camp, a Republican, has held for 20 years.
Republican Richard Meginnis, who is in commercial real estate sales and leasing, got 36%, eliminating fellow Republican Mike James, a senior manufacturing engineer.
Stock said she’s excited to continue sharing her message with voters.
“We put in a lot of hard work, hearing what the voters of Lincoln really care about,” she said Tuesday night.
Streets and taxes were among the issues she heard a lot about, she said, and she hopes to change the narrative that voters don’t trust city government.
Going forward, Stock said she wants to focus on issues that could make Lincoln an even more attractive place to live: early childhood education, transportation and environmental sustainability -- particularly keeping up the momentum that began with the cardboard ban to the landfill.
Meginnis, a Republican who served two terms on the Lincoln Board of Education and raised the most money of all the council candidates, said he’s humbled.
He said he’s excited to help plan for the South Beltway and growth in south Lincoln, and his professional experience with city planning issues will be helpful. He also wants to keep Lincoln’s neighborhoods safe.
“I like the idea of having safe neighborhoods. We cannot lose that. That’s what keeps people coming to Lincoln.”
Democrat Tammy Ward, with 49% of the vote, and Libertarian James Herrold with 28% moved on to the general election in the race for the seat Eskridge held for the last eight years.
Cassey Lottman, also a Democrat, garnered 21% of the vote as a political newcomer.
Ward, who owns a consulting company, plans to continue the conversation with voters on her ideas to make housing more affordable and grow the city's economy.
Tuesday's results had her encouraged her message was resonating, she said.
"The voters made it abundantly clear they want Lincoln to keep moving forward," Ward said.
Ward received Eskridge's endorsement and led her opponents in campaign fundraising, which included donations from prominent Nebraska Democrats Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson.
Herrold, an interactive operations manager, trailed Ward in fundraising but said he believe his discussions with voters about lowering taxes and helping families thrive in Lincoln helped him advance.
"I think that’s also propelled me through," Herrold said.
The only incumbent on the ballot, Councilwoman Jane Raybould, cruised to the general election over her Republican challenger Colten Zamrzla in the southeast Lincoln District 3 race.
Following her unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer in November, the first-term councilwoman and former Lancaster County commissioner doubled the votes of Zamrzla, a political newcomer.
She said she hopes the strong voter turnout that buoyed Democrats in the primary races continues next month.
The vote totals have Zamrzla, a commercial insurance agent, neither surprised nor deterred.
"We knew going in that it’s going to be a tough race, and I was going to be the underdog," he said.
Approaching the general election, he plans to knock on another 2,500 doors and stress his commitment to transparency as he seeks to close the gap.
City primary election results
Lincoln sales tax increase for roads
|Leirion Gaylor Baird||21,343|
City Council District 1
|James Michael Bowers||5,287|
City Council District 2
City Council District 3
City Council District 4