McCook's Blue Wave?
According to the story in Monday's Gazette, State Sen. Dan Hughes intends to erase party lines in small-town votes with his bill, LB 144, and I believe this effort would cause more harm than good.
I've interviewed Sen. Hughes several times and enjoyed his openness over the last decade when I was previously tasked with covering his weekly legislative conference calls for the Gazette. I believe Sen. Hughes to be a very good legislator for our region and have sided with, or at least understood the logic behind, all of his previous initiatives. I cannot support LB 144, however, and struggle with seeing the logic behind it, given it was introduced by a legislator claiming to be a Republican, who is representing a region primarily consisting of Republic leaning residents, and would only serve to weaken the Republican party.
More importantly, Sen. Hughes comments that residents of smaller communities know who they're voting for belittles the monumental challenge area residents are faced with when attempting to educate themselves on who their candidates for office really are, and what priorities they will have if elected.
You don't have to look far for an example, either. During the 2018 General Election, five candidates vied for three open seats on the "non-partisan" McCook City Council. Red Willow County has not selected a Democratic Party candidate since 1936, and despite McCook representing approximately 70% of the population in Red Willow County, the lone McCook City Council candidate claiming to be a Democrat, Gene Weedin, received the most votes.
I have spoken with a host of area residents since the election and found the vast majority were surprised to learn Councilman Weedin was a Democrat. I believe this election might have had a different outcome if the candidates were required to claim a party affiliation.
I firmly believe our community leaders are far better at muddying the waters than they are at keeping the public informed. Taking away one of the few tools available for voters hoping to learn more about their candidates will only make the situation worse.