Friday, April 5, 2024

Nebraska State Senator Switching From Democrat to Republican

Nebraska State Senator Switching From Democrat to Republican 

Nebraska state Sen. Mike McDonnell has announced that he’s switching party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, citing his Christian faith and views on abortion.

Mr. McDonnell made the announcement in an April 3 statement to local media outlets, citing the Democratic Party’s opposition to his pro-life stance.

“When I ran for reelection in 2020, I was pro-life,” he said, adding that he’s Catholic and recalling that in 2016, he ran as a pro-life candidate for Nebraska’s fifth legislative district.

“I have asked the Democratic Party to respect my religious-based pro-life position. Instead, over the last year, they have decided to punish me for being pro-life.”

Mr. McDonnell said that, because he opposes abortion, Douglas County Democrats voted not to seat him as a delegate and not share party resources, while the state Democratic Party voted to censure him for his pro-life views.

“Being a Christian member of the Roman Catholic Church and pro-life is more important to me than being a registered Democrat,” he said, adding that he was switching to the GOP effective immediately.

The Nebraska Democratic Party issued a statement in response to Mr. McDonnell’s party change, expressing “respect” for his work with the party while denying that the censure vote had anything to do with his pro-life views.

“The Nebraska Democratic Party will continue to stand up for reproductive freedom and the human rights of the LGBTQ community,” Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said in the statement.

“Our decision to censure Sen. McDonnell was never about him being a pro-life Catholic. Our decision was based on our party reaffirming our core values to protect women’s ability to make health decisions and to keep politicians out of our personal health decisions.”

Ms. Kleeb said that she and her Nebraska Democrat colleagues “respect the ongoing work of Senator McDonnell on behalf of unions and his commitment to protect a fair electoral vote system” in the state.

Mr. McDonnell’s party affiliation switch could signal that Nebraska may be headed for a major change as Republican leaders have expressed support for a move to a winner-take-all system for allocating the state’s Electoral College votes.

Change to Winner-Take-All?

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, a Republican, showed a willingness on April 2 to back legislation that would potentially prevent President Joe Biden from getting one of the state’s electoral votes. He did this by endorsing a statewide “winner-takes-all” system that is likely to boost former President Donald Trump.

Unlike every other U.S. state, only Nebraska and Maine assign Electoral College votes by district. A congressional district that centers around Omaha, the largest city in the state, has sometimes gone in favor of Democratic presidential candidates, including in 2020.

However, if the state switched to a more standard system, Nebraska’s three electoral votes would likely all go to President Trump as the former president easily won the GOP-dominated state by wide margins in both 2016 and 2020.

In January, legislators introduced a bill to use the standard, winner-take-all system. In a social media post on April 2, Mr. Pillen endorsed the initiative.
“It would bring Nebraska into line with 48 of our fellow states, better reflect the founders’ intent, and ensure our state speaks with one unified voice in presidential elections,” Mr. Pillen wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I call upon fellow Republicans in the Legislature to pass this bill to my desk so I can sign it into law.”

His comment was backed by President Trump on social media, describing the governor’s endorsement of the measure as “very smart.”

“Governor Jim Pillen of Nebraska, a very smart and popular Governor, who has done some really great things, came out today with a very strong letter in support of returning Nebraska’s Electoral Votes to a Winner-Take-All System,” President Trump wrote on Tuesday.

“Most Nebraskans have wanted to go back to this system for a very long time, because it’s what 48 other States do—It’s what the Founders intended, and it’s right for Nebraska,” he continued. “Thank you Governor for your bold leadership. Let’s hope the Senate does the right thing. Nebraskans, respectfully ask your Senators to support this Great Bill!”

In 2020, President Joe Biden won Nebraska’s Omaha-based congressional district, giving him one electoral vote.  President Trump carried the state with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Some analysts have said on social media that if the Nebraska bill is signed into law, it would pose a problem for President Biden because he wouldn’t have a clear path to 270 votes to win the presidency.

Jack Phillips and Reuters contributed to this report.

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