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President Trump wins statewide popular vote in Nebraska

Ahmed Morsi brings along his month-old son Omar, while filling his ballot at a polling place in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

By MARGERY A. BECK Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday won deeply conservative Nebraska, which hasn’t seen its statewide popular vote go to a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson carried the state in 1964. But that doesn’t mean Trump is guaranteed all five of the state’s electoral votes.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden is hoping to peel off at least one electoral vote in Nebraska — one of only two states that allows its electoral votes to be split.

The former vice president has a chance of winning in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses Omaha and several suburbs. Polling has shown a competitive race between Biden and Trump in the district, while the president is far ahead statewide.

Since adopting the system in 1991, Nebraska has split its electoral votes only once: In 2008, when Democrat Barack Obama won the 2nd District on his way to the presidency.

Trump supporters who spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday tended to cite his performance in his first term for their decision.

“I went ahead and voted for Donald Trump because I believe he is honest, and he gets things done and he delivers,” said Lisa Schneider, a 59-year-old homemaker in Omaha. “And most of all, he loves our country.”

Christine Reisser, 56, is a retired teacher in Omaha who said she supported Trump because she wants him to continue doing what he has been doing for the past four years.

“He’s going to keep our way of life intact,” Reisser said.

CONGRESS

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse easily won a second term in a race marked by controversy surrounding Democrat Chris Janicek, an Omaha cupcake bakery owner. Janicek won the Democratic primary in May, but then came under fire from his own party for sending sexually explicit texts about a female campaign worker in a group text message.

The Nebraska Democratic Party spent months trying unsuccessfully to force Janicek out of the race, and the party eventually endorsed longtime party activist Preston Love Jr. as a write-in candidate.

Nebraska’s three U.S. House seats will also be decided. In Nebraska’s 2nd District, which is home to the state’s largest city of Omaha, Republican incumbent Rep. Don Bacon is in a tight race with Democrat Kara Eastman in a repeat of the 2018 contest narrowly won by Bacon.

In the 1st District, Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry is seeking to fend off Democratic challenger Kate Bolz. Republican Rep. Adrian Smith is also expected to win re-election to an eighth term representing the state’s deeply red vast, rural 3rd District over Democratic challenger Mark Elworth Jr.

CASINO GAMBLING

After decades of rejecting casino gambling, Nebraska voters are again being asked to decide whether to allow it, this time at state-licensed horse racing tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus and South Sioux City.

The Nebraska Constitution prohibits casino gambling, and the state has a long history of rejecting efforts to allow slot machines and table-gambling. Voters this year are being asked to change the state constitution to allow gambling and create two laws to regulate and tax the industry.

Opponents argue it would lead to social ills such as crime and bankruptcy fueled by gambling addiction. Supporters say those problems already exist in Nebraska because of easy access to neighboring states’ casinos, and that legalizing casinos in Nebraska would create jobs and a new source of state tax revenue.

PAYDAY LENDING

Another ballot measure takes aim at so-called payday lenders. The proposal seeks to cap the annual interest rate on payday loans at 36%.

If approved, that would change current state law that now allows lenders to charge as much as 404% annually. Supporters of the measure say such high rates victimize low-income people and those who do not understand lending requirements.

Industry officials counter that those high rates are misleading because most loans are short-term and that capping the interest rate will put them out of business.

SLAVERY BAN

Nebraska is one of several states taking on ballot measures in a climate of racial strife this election. Voters will decide a proposal that would strip language from Nebraska’s state constitution that provides an exemption to its ban on slavery.

The proposal would eliminate a passage in the state constitution, dating from the 19th century, that allows slavery as punishment for a crime. There is no organized opposition to the measure, which advanced through the Legislature this year on a unanimous vote.

One other state — Utah — is considering a nearly identical measure.

GOP LEGISLATIVE DIVIDE

A hotly contested race pitting two Republicans against one another for a seat in the officially non-partisan Legislature has exposed a divide in the state GOP.

State Sen. Julie Slama, of Peru, is locked in an unusually bitter race against challenger Janet Palmtag, of Nebraska City. Slama is backed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, who appointed her to the seat last year, while Palmtag has been endorsed by former Gov. Dave Heineman.

Slama’s campaign has come under criticism for attack ads accusing Palmtag of being soft on crime that pictured Palmtag with state Sen. Ernie Chambers, one of only two Black lawmakers for the state. Critics included former governors Heineman and Democrat Bob Kerrey, who accused Slama of “race-baiting tactics.”

Last month, state regulators found the Nebraska Republican Party and a political consulting firm liable for making illegal robocalls to benefit Slama.

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Find AP’s full election coverage at http://apnews.com/Election2020