Heineman Criticizes GOP-Proposed Congressional Map

Then-Gov. Dave Heineman speaks during an interview in Lincoln, Dec. 17, 2014. (AP)
The Associated Press

A Republican-friendly congressional map proposed by lawmakers drew unexpected criticism last Thursday from former Republican Gov. Dave Heineman. Heineman.

Heineman, who is considering a run for governor, took issue with part of the plan that would move rural Saunders County into the Omaha-focused 2nd Congressional District. The county has been in the more rural 1st Congressional District for decades.

Heineman spent a large part of his childhood in the county and said many residents feel connected to their current district.

The 2nd District currently encompasses all of Douglas and the western part of Sarpy County.

The proposed Republican plan in the Legislature would divide Douglas County between the 1st and 2nd Districts, while moving all of neighboring Sarpy and Saunders counties into the 2nd District.

Saunders and Sarpy counties are both heavily Republican, so merging them with the 2nd District would likely offset Democratic votes in Omaha.

Heineman said he doesn’t object to other parts of the GOP plan. He opposes the Democratic counter-proposal, which would keep Douglas County whole in the 2nd District and swap out western Sarpy County with the more Democratic-leaning city of Bellevue.

But he said it’s obvious that neither plan has the support it needs to pass in the Legislature during the special session that begins next week.

“I don’t have a doubt there are going to be some tradeoffs here,” Heineman said in an interview. “At the end of the day, you’re going to have to find some common ground.”

Members of the Redistricting Committee have endorsed two sets of maps as a compromise between Republican lawmakers who favor one and Democrats who prefer the other. Eventually, committee members will have to vote on a single plan to submit to the full Legislature.

“These are just a starting point, a foundation,” said Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, the committee’s GOP chairwoman. “It’s not where we’ll end up.”

Sen. Justin Wayne, the leading Democrat on the committee, said lawmakers have no choice but to find a compromise because lawmakers are constitutionally required to redraw the maps every decade, and Nebraska doesn’t have any formal process in place if the Legislature fails to act.

“We’ve got to get it done,” Wayne said.

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