If cash and chatter are gauges, it's a tight mayoral race - Omaha.com
Published Monday, May 13, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 2:02 pm
2013 Omaha Elections
If cash and chatter are gauges, it's a tight mayoral race

An Elkhorn-area woman thinks Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle is too friendly with both the police and firefighters' unions, while an Omaha woman who lives farther east says Republican Jean Stothert is “too conservative.”

Taxes, unions and potholes were on the minds of about a half-dozen voters who talked a little politics Sunday as the Omaha mayoral race entered its final 48 hours.

On Tuesday, these voters and others will have the final word on the race between Suttle and Stothert.

Suttle, a Democrat, is seeking a second term, while Stothert, a city councilwoman, is seeking to make history as Omaha's first female mayor.

If money is any indication, both of the candidates and their supporters expect it to be close, as last-minute dollars poured into both campaigns in the past two weeks.

Suttle has raised $100,000 since April 29, when the last campaign report was filed with the state accountability commission. However, half of that cash came from two people: Suttle and retired businessman Dick Holland, a reliable Democratic donor from Omaha.

Suttle loaned $30,000 to his campaign, while Holland chipped in $20,000.

For her part, Stothert raised $67,000 in the last two weeks. Much of her last-minute support came from businesses, including $10,000 from Swain Construction Inc., and $5,000 from ConAgra Foods.

Overall, the candidates have been evenly matched financially. Both raised about $1.1 million. (Suttle enjoyed a $30,000 lead as of Sunday.)

On Sunday, Suttle spent part of his day trying to woo voters with a mix of song and humor at the farmers market at Aksarben Village. He joked with a bike enthusiast about an Omaha nighttime bike ride called the Owl Ride.

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“I think that's a hoot — no pun intended,” he told the woman.

He then accepted a request to sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with a local band known as the Prairie Gators. (They later confirmed that Suttle knew all the words to the song.)

Stothert, who has spent the past six months knocking on doors, decided to take a day off and spend Mother's Day with her daughter.

On Saturday she walked in two events: the Heart Walk at Miller's Landing and the Florence Days Parade.

For the most part, the shoppers and the strollers at the farmers market appeared more interested in scoring ripe tomatoes than talking politics with either Suttle or members of the news media.

The lack of interest in the election frustrates Sarah Wilch, a 33-year-old Omaha voter.

“When we try to talk to people about it, nobody knows what's going on,” Wilch said. “This is a mayor's race. This is a big deal for our city.”

For her part, Wilch was ready to vote. And she planned to support Suttle.

“I think he really understands Omaha's issues. I wouldn't say I'm a liberal, (but) I think the way Jean views things is a little more conservative than me,” Wilch said.

An Elkhorn-area couple said they, too, had made up their minds.

Both Darrell and Joan Smith walked by Suttle without saying a word. Later, they said they were upset with the mayor because they believe he has been too friendly with the police and the firefighters' unions.

Both unions have supported Suttle. So far, the police union has sent at least seven direct-mail pieces criticizing Stothert. The firefighters' union has spent money on television ads critical of Stothert.

“They let the unions run the city, rather than the city running the unions. It's time for that to change,” said Joan Smith. “It's worse than anything I saw in Chicago.”

However, not everyone had made up their minds.

Jo Gaver, a Republican who lives in central Omaha, said she still was “looking into” both Stothert and Suttle's positions on the issues.

She said she isn't “pleased” with Suttle but not totally sold on Stothert.

“We're not 100 percent one way or another, but we're leaning toward her,” Gaver said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1309, robynn.tysver@owh.com

Contact the writer: Robynn Tysver

robynn.tysver@owh.com    |   402-444-1309    |  

Robynn is Omaha.com's elections writer. She's covered presidential politics in Iowa's caucuses, and gubernatorial and Senate races in Nebraska.

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