Nebraska’s 2017 legislative session begins with 17 new senators

Nebraska’s 2017 legislative session begins with 17 new senators
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — The 2017 legislative session convenes Wednesday with 17 new faces filling the halls of the State Capitol.

Ten Republicans and seven Democrats make up the newest class of lawmakers in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature.

While Democrats picked up three seats, they remain in the minority in the body.

The new crew of senators means about 70 percent of the body’s 49 members have two years of experience or less, an effect of limiting lawmakers to two consecutive terms of four years.

Here’s a look at the new class:

Joni Albrecht of Thurston won the District 17 seat vacated by term-limited Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins. Albrecht, a 58-year-old Republican, is a farmer who previously served on the Sarpy County Board and Papillion City Council before moving to northeast Nebraska.

Carol Blood of Bellevue beat incumbent Tommy Garrett of Bellevue to represent District 3. A business consultant, Blood, 55, is a Democrat whose background includes serving on the Bellevue City Council.

Bruce Bostelman of Brainard ousted incumbent Jerry Johnson of Wahoo to represent District 23, which includes Saunders, Butler and Colfax Counties. Bostelman, a 54-year-old Republican, is a farmer and Air Force retiree.

Tom Brewer of Gordon bested incumbent Al Davis of Hyannis to represent District 43, which includes all or part of 13 counties in the state’s vast Sand Hills. A Republican, Brewer, 58, is a retired Army colonel and former helicopter pilot who ran for Congress in 2014.

Tom Briese, a Republican from Albion, follows term-limited Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids to represent central Nebraska’s District 41. Briese, 57, is a farmer who has a law degree and who served on the Boone Central school board.

Steve Erdman of Bayard replaces outgoing Ken Schilz of Ogallala to represent western Nebraska’s District 47. Erdman, a 67-year-old Republican, is a real estate agent who served on the Morrill County Board and Bayard Public Schools board of education.

Suzanne Geist of Lincoln follows Kathy Campbell, who was term-limited, to represent District 25 that includes southeast Lincoln and northeast Lancaster County. Geist, 55, is a Republican and the owner of a custom clothing business.

Steve Halloran of Hastings defeated incumbent Les Seiler of Hastings to represent District 33, which covers Adams County and part of Hall County. Halloran, 68, is a Republican, co-owner of HuHot Mongolian Grill restaurants and a retired farmer.

Mike Hilgers of Lincoln succeeds term-limited Ken Haar of Lincoln to represent District 21, which includes parts of northwest Lincoln and Lancaster County. Hilgers, 38, is a Republican and attorney who owns a firm. He ran for attorney general in 2014.

Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn takes over District 39, the western Douglas County seat previously held by Beau McCoy, who was barred from running due to term limits. Linehan, 61, is a veteran Republican activist and consultant who was chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel.

John Lowe of Kearney assumes representation for the people of District 37, previously held by Galen Hadley, who was prohibited from running because of term limits. Lowe, a 57-year-old Republican, is a real estate investor and former bar and restaurant owner who served on the Kearney Planning Commission.

Mike McDonnell of Omaha replaces Heath Mello to represent District 5, which includes parts of midtown and South Omaha. A former Omaha fire chief, McDonnell, 50, is a Democrat and a labor educator at the University of Nebraska at Omaha William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies.

Dan Quick of Grand Island replaces Mike Gloor, who was term-limited, to represent Grand Island’s District 35. A Democrat, Quick, 59, is a power plant maintenance mechanic at Platte Generating Station, Grand Island’s city-owned plant.

Tony Vargas of Omaha follows Nicole Fox, who lost in the May primary election, to represent South Omaha’s District 7. Vargas, a 32-year-old Democrat and director of marketing and communication for Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, served on the Omaha Public Schools board.

Lynne Walz of Fremont beat incumbent Dave Schnoor of Scribner to represent the Fremont-area District 15 seat. A Democrat, Walz, 53, is a real estate agent who has been a teacher and has worked with people with disabilities.

Justin Wayne of Omaha replaces term-limited Tanya Cook to represent northeast Omaha’s District 13. A Democrat, Wayne, 37, is an attorney and owner of a small construction company who sat on the OPS board.

Anna Wishart of Lincoln fills an open seat previously held by Colby Coash to represent west Lincoln’s District 27. A Democrat and former legislative aide, Wishart, 32, is a policy consultant for an organization dedicated to after-school programs who has served on the Lincoln Airport Authority.

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