A mere 15,000 votes.
That's the magic goal that the five major Omaha mayoral candidates believe they must hit in Tuesday's primary to win a spot in the May 14 general election.
Although anything can happen, 15,000 translates into 30 percent of projected turnout.
In other words, it's going to be a tight election. If history is any indication, a few hundred votes could decide who advances.
For candidates, it's time to turn out out their “true believers,” said Randy Adkins, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“It is easier to have a big impact in a low-turnout election if you mobilize your core of supporters,” Adkins said.
The top five candidates include three Republicans, one Democrat and one independent.
Click here to view The World-Herald's guide to the mayoral race.
The Democrat is the incumbent, Mayor Jim Suttle, who survived a recall attempt in 2011 and is seeking another term.
His Republican challengers are three familiar Omaha faces: Jean Stothert, a member of the City Council; businessman Dave Nabity; and Dan Welch, a former member of the council.
State Sen. Brad Ashford, who left the Republican Party in 2011, is the independent.
About 18 percent of the city's registered voters — roughly 50,000 people — are expected to cast ballots, said David Phipps, Douglas County election commissioner.
Clouding Phipps' prediction, however, is a school board race.
For the first time in a city election, voters will be asked to cast ballots for the Omaha Public Schools board. The state whittled the board from 12 to nine members in the hope that a smaller board would be more effective.
Click here to view The World-Herald's guide to the OPS board race.
“No one can predict the impact of the school board races,” said Gary Di Silvestro, Suttle's campaign manager.
Voters also will weigh in on Omaha City Council seats.
Three council races are contested at the primary level and must be narrowed to two candidates each.
Candidates in four other council races automatically advance to the May election because only two people are running.
Elections are often tight in Omaha because the electorate is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
Mayoral races have been notably partisan.
In three of the past four primaries, fewer than 1,000 votes separated the Republican and the Democratic front-runners.
In the most recent primary, former Republican Mayor Hal Daub edged out Suttle for the top spot by 427 votes. Suttle went on to defeat Daub in the general election.
One of the city's tightest primary races in recent history was in 1997. That year, 280 votes separated Daub from Democrat Brenda Council, the second-place finisher.
Daub went on to defeat Council in the general election.
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