By Jackson Booth, Contributor
In last week’s city primary elections, Omaha city councilwoman Jean Stothert not only secured her place in the general election, but also gathered nearly 5,000 more votes than current Mayor Jim Suttle.
The Douglas County Election Commission released the most current unofficial numbers on April 5, which showed that Stothert received 19,203 votes and Suttle, 14,633.
If elected in the May 14 general election, Stothert will become the first female mayor in Omaha. Two of the other mayoral candidates, Dan Welch and Dave Nabity, have already voiced their support for Stothert, while Brad Ashford has yet to support either candidate.
UNO Political Science professor Paul Landow teaches the course “Government and Politics of Omaha,” which was offered specifically because of the recent and upcoming city elections. All five mayoral primary candidates except Stothert have spoken to Landow’s students, although she is expected to pay a visit in the upcoming weeks.
Throughout the primary, Landow predicted that Stothert and Suttle would be the two candidates chosen to run in the general election. But Stothert’s numbers were a bit of a surprise.
“Incumbents are not supposed to lose elections, so for Mayor Suttle to have lost is one thing, but for him to have lost by such a wide margin does not bode well for his campaign,” Landow said.
Political Science major Allison Bitterman is one of Landow’s students and is also a canvasser working for the Suttle campaign. Although Bitterman was upset by the results, she was not all that shocked by the outcome of the primary.
“I think [Suttle] was a little late with the yard signs, canvassing and getting out his television advertisements,” Bitterman said. “Stothert was way ahead of him, and I think that gave her an advantage to gain the votes.”
As a part of her work for the Suttle campaign, Bitterman went door-to-door asking local residents whom they would support in the primary and what issues were important to them in the election.
Some of those pressing issues include the fire and police union contracts, gun violence, taxes and an overwhelming sewer project that would cost the city upward of $1 billion.
Bitterman said she believes Suttle has truly listened to the people of Omaha as mayor by helping to revitalize downtown as well as North and South Omaha. Another one of Suttle’s greatest successes, Bitterman said, was how he handled the 2011 floods.
“The airport could have gone under if we didn’t take urgent measures,” Bitterman said.
While a good number of Omahans support Suttle, many in the community aren’t happy with the direction the city is going. Stothert has addressed concerns like the mayor’s restaurant tax and other items her supporters believe have damaged the business community in Omaha.
All of these issues indicate that voters in the upcoming general election will remain fairly partisan, Landow said.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty partisan election,” Landow said. “With that said, there is going to be a lot of crossover voting, and I think that there is a pretty stark difference between the political and social philosophy of both candidates.”