Pro-life Republican Jim Pillen is the next governor
By Sandy Danek, Executive Director, Nebraska Right to Life
Nebraska Right to Life congratulates the winning candidates who worked so diligently for the pro-life cause in these mid-term elections. Abortion was a major issue in many of the races, and most pro-life candidates prevailed, largely because the GOP structure remained intact.
In the gubernatorial race, pro-life Republican Jim Pillen, Chair of Pillen Family Farms in Columbus, Nebraska, a doctor of veterinarian medicine, and a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, won with a higher vote share (60%) than his pro-life predecessor, Governor Pete Ricketts. His win comes after a hotly contested primary in which Falls City, Nebraska candidate Charles Herbster, CEO of Herbster Angus Farms and several other corporations, had an early lead.
One of Pillen’s first major tasks as governor will be to appoint a replacement to complete the term (through 2026) of U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, who is leaving to become the next president of the University of Florida.
In all three of Nebraska’s Congressional districts, the winners were endorsed by Nebraska Right to Life PAC.
In the first district, a special election was held in June 2022 to determine who would finish out the brief remaining term of the vacated seat previously held by Republican Jeff Fortenberry. State Senator Mike Flood (R) won against colleague Senator Patty Pansing-Brooks (D).These same candidates squared off for the general election.
There were clear-cut differences in their platforms, especially with respect to pro-life issues. As former Speaker of the unicameral legislature, Flood was the lead sponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act enacted in 2010. Nebraska had the honor of being the first state to pass this historic legislation.
Pansing-Brooks was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska and made “reproductive rights” a focal point of her campaign.
In the second district, incumbent Don Bacon won against State Senator Tony Vargas, a formidable candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska.
Long-time incumbent Adrian Smith of the third district was easily re-elected.
We enjoyed success with the following positions filled with Nebraska Right to Life PAC endorsed candidates: Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, and State Auditor.
Unlike the other 49 states, Nebraska has a unicameral legislature—just one house—and office holders are called senators. It is also nonpartisan and does not officially recognize its members’ political party affiliations.
In the State Legislative races, Nebraska Right to Life PAC endorsed candidates were elected/re-elected to 18 of the 26 available seats. That still falls short of the number of votes needed to stop a filibuster against any proposed pro-life legislation.
Abortions are not allowed after 20 weeks in Nebraska. In the 2022 Legislative session, pro-life efforts fell two votes short of passing a “trigger” bill that would have essentially outlawed abortion in the state effective immediately upon reversal of Roe v. Wade. The 2023 Legislative session will need moderate senators to join forces with the pro-life contingency to successfully pass protections for the preborn.
NRL PAC endorsed candidates for the University of Nebraska Board of Regents were elected to the two available seats. In the area of education, Republican candidates for State Board of Education won three of four races: Kirk Penner of Aurora, Sherry Jones of Grand Island, and Elizabeth Tegtmeier of North Platte. Democrat Deb Neary in the west Omaha district survived a challenge from Republican Marni Hodgen, leaving Democrats with a narrow advantage in selecting the next state education commissioner.
While challenges remain, the overall political landscape looks promising for the pro-life effort in Nebraska. We will continue working toward further protections in the 2023 Legislative session.