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Voters narrow candidates in three contested primary races for Nebraska’s top education boards

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Voters narrow candidates in three contested primary races for Nebraska’s top education boards

May 15, 2024 | 1:23 am ET
By Cindy Gonzalez
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Voters narrow candidates in three contested primary races for Nebraska’s top education boards
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Two State Board of Education races and one University of Nebraska Board of Regents race had more than two candidates in the 2024 primary election. Top row, for State Board of Education District 2, Linda Vermooten, right, and Maggie Douglas, left, were leading Karen Morgan in votes. Bottom row, State Board of Education District 4, Liz Renner, right, and LeDonna White Griffin, left, were leading Stacy Matula in votes as of late Tuesday. Flanking those candidates are Regent Rob Schafer, left, who was leading a three-person race along with Gary Rogge (not pictured). Jerome Wohleb is on the right. (Photos courtesy of the candidates; School bus photo by Rebecca Gratz for the Nebraska Examiner)

OMAHA — Three crowded primary election races for Nebraska’s highest-profile education boards, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and the State Board of Education, were narrowed on Tuesday.

The top two vote-getters for each of the officially nonpartisan seats will face off in the November general election.

For the NU Board of Regents:

  • In District 5, incumbent Rob Schafer of Beatrice, a Republican, finished on top of a three-person primary election field, garnering over half the votes. His likely opponent is Gary Rogge of Auburn, a nonpartisan, who was outpacing Democrat Jerome Wohleb in primary votes.
  • In District 3, Jim Scheer of Norfolk is unopposed. The Republican from Norfolk is an incumbent appointed by Gov. Jim Pillen in February 2023 to fill Pillen’s own seat.
  • In District 4, incumbent Elizabeth O’Connor, a Democrat, significantly outpaced opponent Jim Rogers, a Republican, in primary voting. Both advance to the general election.
  • In District 8, incumbent Barbara Weitz, a Democrat, also significantly outpaced her only opponent, Zachary Mellender, a nonpartisan. They’ll face off in the general election. 

All of the candidates for State Board of Education were fresh faces, as incumbents in the four open districts all could have run for re-election but opted not to — throwing into question the political tilt of the eight-member board that helps shape state education policy.

In the two contested primary races:

  • In District 2, Linda Vermooten, a Republican, and Maggie Douglas, a Democrat, were leading to carve out the two spots in the general election. Karen Morgan, a Democrat, was trailing in third place.
  • In District 4, Liz Renner, a Democrat, and LeDonna White Griffin, a nonpartisan, were ahead in their three-person primary race that included Stacy Matula, a Republican. 

The other two Board of Education races had only two primary election candidates, so both advanced.

  • In District 1, Kristin Christensen, a Democrat, will face off with Liz Davids, a Republican.
  • In District 3, Republican Lisa Schonhoff will compete against Bill McAllister, also a Republican.