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Election results may aid immigration solution, Madison County Democrat says

November 16, 2018

It was a split decision for U.S. politics during the 2018 midterm elections.

Republicans retained control of the U.S. Senate, while the Democrats seized control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since the 2010 election.

Pete Rizzo, chairman of the Madison County Democrats, said he anticipated a blue Democratic wave nationally, especially in the House, where every seat is up for grabs every two years.

“It’s like a sports analogy — you think that your team has a really good shot at winning,” Rizzo said. “But you still don’t want to be too ahead of yourself, so to speak.”

Since the Democrats now control the House, the Donald Trump administration will now face more scrutiny and questions from the Democrats when the administration is trying to pass any executive orders and legislation, Rizzo said.

But he’s also pleased that the House has a more diverse membership now — more women, Native Americans and African-Americans were elected — that could help bring the nation to work together despite polarization still running high in the country.

″(The representatives) can hopefully bring some experiences that others hadn’t had before in the past,” he said.

Because two parties now each have some degree of control, it may help the nation to finally come up with a bipartisan immigration solution and new infrastructure and “get some things done,” Rizzo said.

Being a Democrat in a red state like Nebraska comes with challenges, Rizzo said.

Some have preconceived notions that Democrats only want to work against the norm, while Democrats at times feel as they do not have a voice to express their ideas.

“It’s always a challenge because we are always the underdogs. Sometimes it’s frustrating because it feels like that — and I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way,” Rizzo said.

“If you put an ‘R’ next to your name and run, you are going to get voted in because you are running as Republican.”

Despite there being 362,240 registered Democrats in Nebraska to the Republicans’ total of 584,155, Rizzo said the 2018 midterm election still galvanized more Democrats to run for office. He pointed to U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s challenger, first-time candidate Jessica McClure of Lincoln, who gained 40.3 percent of the voters in Nebraska’s 1st District race.

“That was a good start. Hopefully, that can continue to the next future election,” Rizzo said. “We were hoping, of course, that she would win.”

The 2018 election turnout was one of the highest in Nebraska history, and Rizzo said he doesn’t recall people on social media reminding one another of their right to vote prior to previous elections. But they did this time around, he said.

Roughly 56 percent of Nebraska’s registered voters participated in this year’s elections, in comparison to the nearly 48 percent of registered voters who went to the polls in the 2014 midterm election.

Rizzo said he hopes the increased voter engagement will lead to open dialogues about issues relevant to Nebraskans, including the passage of Medicaid expansion and working for tax breaks for middle-class families.

“We want to help people out,” he said. “We want to help Nebraska out.”

Even though polarization still runs high in the nation, Rizzo encourages both parties with political differences to work together.

″(Americans) can look at Nebraska and the rest of the Midwest values that we have and realize that we all should work together,” he said. “We all can agree to disagree, too, and do so respectfully.”

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