Omaha, Lincoln mayors unite against term limits; Stothert says proposal ‘directly’ targets Beutler

October 5, 2018

Republican Mayor Jean Stothert of Omaha came out swinging Thursday against a term-limits campaign in Lincoln that is widely viewed as being aimed at the capital city’s Democratic mayor, Chris Beutler.

“Our work as mayors of Nebraska’s two largest cities is nonpartisan,” Stothert said in a joint appearance with Beutler. “I have sincerely appreciated working with you, mayor, on many issues that we share common interest. ... I am here to encourage the voters of Lincoln to reject the so-called mayoral term-limit proposal that is on your November ballot.”

Stothert, who is considering seeking a third term as Omaha mayor and could potentially face a term-limits challenge in her own city, called the Lincoln effort “a slick way to kick Mayor Beutler out of office at the end of this term.”

Stothert said the people advocating for the Lincoln measure were hiding behind the concept of term limits in order to “directly target a current elected official.”

“And that is wrong,” Stothert said.

She appeared with Beutler at a press conference organized by Fair Elections Lincoln, a bipartisan group opposing the Lincoln term-limits proposal. It would retroactively set a three-term limit on Lincoln mayors, preventing Beutler from the fourth term that he is seeking in next spring’s city elections.

Stothert, elected last year to her second term as Omaha’s mayor, has shown early signs that she may seek a third four-year term in 2021.

Beutler said the backers of the Lincoln term-limits proposal are using the issue as a “partisan political weapon.”

“Political insiders who oppose my re-election put term limits on the ballot right in the middle of the campaign,” Beutler said.

The Political Renewal Association, a group whose backers include Republican National Committeeman J.L. Spray, is pushing for mayoral term limits in Lincoln. Spokesman Matt Innis has said that allowing politicians to serve in office without term limits is “the biggest problem in this country.”

“We don’t think anybody should be able to serve a lifetime in public office,” Innis said in September. “The Founding Fathers, when setting up everything, never intended for people to become kings or emperors.”

The mayoral term limits issue is not as pressing in Omaha as in Lincoln, at least not yet. But it could become one. Democrats have threatened to retaliate.

Jane Kleeb, Nebraska Democratic Party chairwoman, told The World-Herald in September that Democrats may consider trying to place term limits on the mayor of Omaha, but not until after the November election.

Stothert said term-limits measures should be aimed at the office, not the officeholder, and should not be retroactive. She pointed to the term limits that Nebraska voters placed on state legislators as the fair way to do it.

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