After Lincoln approves term limits for mayors, Democrats set their sights on Omaha
LINCOLN — Brace yourselves, Omaha: You might soon be voting whether to impose term limits on the office of mayor.
The head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, Jane Kleeb, said Wednesday that the party was assessing what steps are needed to put the issue on the ballot in Omaha in the wake of approval of a mayoral term-limit referendum in Lincoln.
“The Nebraska Democratic Party believes in fairness. So I am sure the Republican Party will join forces with us on this since they led the effort in Lincoln,” Kleeb said in a statement Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Lincoln voters, by 53 percent to 47 percent, approved a ballot initiative that blocks Chris Beutler, one of the state’s highest-ranking Democrats, from seeking election to a fourth term next year. It would limit Lincoln mayors to three four-year terms.
Among those who had lobbied against the term limits proposal was Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican, who said it was wrong to target a specific elected official with such an idea.
Stothert has hinted that she will run for a third term, but the next Omaha city election isn’t until 2021.
A group of Republicans had collected signatures to put the term-limit proposal on the ballot in Lincoln. Before the election, Kleeb had said “it would only seem fair” that if such a proposal passed in Lincoln, it should be considered in Omaha.
J.L. Spray, a Lincoln attorney who helped lead the effort in the capital city, said that voters were troubled that an officeholder could be seeking a fourth four-year term. “They chose to take a little power back and let some new people get involved,” he said.
Beutler, 73, a former state senator who became Lincoln’s mayor in 2007, did not issue a comment Wednesday about the vote. “He is at work, and has a full slate of meetings,” said his spokeswoman, Diane Gonzolas.
So far, the only announced candidate for Lincoln mayor is City Council member Cyndi Lamm, a Republican. Early speculation about other possible candidates included City Council member Leirion Gaylor Baird and State Sen. Adam Morfeld, who are both Democrats.