The Gateway Unpacks: The results from Omaha’s primary elections are in

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Anton Johnson
COLUMNIST
The Gateway Unpacks is a column that seeks to make political news, both local and national, accessible to anybody.

Mayor Jean Stothert and Democrat candidate RJ Neary will face each other in May after taking the top two spots in Tuesday’s primary election. Photo courtesy of Fox 42 News KPTM.

The final unofficial results of Omaha’s city elections were released Friday afternoon after all ballots were counted. Most of the results were released Tuesday evening, except for about 12,000 early ballots that were returned on election day.

Mayor Jean Stothert had a strong showing, winning 56% of the vote. She will likely be favored to win re-election to a third term in May. If Stothert serves a full-term, she would become the longest serving mayor of Omaha in modern history, in addition to being the first female mayor.

The race for second, and the opportunity to challenge Mayor Stothert, was split between four Democratic candidates. Commercial real estate broker RJ Neary, seen as the most moderate of the four, was finally announced to be Stothert’s opponent on Friday.

On Tuesday night, Neary led nonprofit executive Jasmine Harris by about 1,700 votes. Harris hoped that the remaining ballots would favor her and put her over the top, but Neary held on. Neary won with 15% to Harris’s 14%, a margin of 1,169 votes.

The Democrats’ combined total trailed Stothert’s by over 10,000 votes. This puts Neary, who narrowly won a divided Democratic electorate, in a tough position. Stothert clearly benefited from an incumbency advantage, which was also apparent in the race for City Council.

Five of the six incumbents who ran for re-election for City Council finished first in their races. Colleen Brennan of District 5, who was appointed to her seat, finished fifth in a close race between several candidates.

The closest race was in District 7, where the Republican incumbent Aimee Melton led her lone challenger, Democrat Sarah Kohen, by only 53 votes. The race for District 3, where Councilmember Chris Jerram declined to run, was also very close. Incumbent Democrat Danny Begley led independent Cammy Watkins by just over 100 votes.

The election had very high turnout, with 85,096 ballots cast, and the general is expected to be even higher. Only 58,784 were cast in the 2017 primary, and 99,688 in the general election that year. Early voting begins for the general election on April 26, and election day is May 11.

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