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Omaha City Council incumbents advance in Districts 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7
Districts 1, 2, 4, 6, 7

Omaha City Council incumbents advance in Districts 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7

Mayor Jean Stothert and RJ Neary will move on from the city primary as the top two vote-getters.

Incumbent Ben Gray led a field of six candidates in District 2, which represents northeast Omaha. Juanita Johnson was clinging to a lead over Jonathan Lathan to challenge Gray in the May 11 general election.

All three are Democrats, although the race is nonpartisan.

Not advancing are Steven Abraham, David D. Mitchell and Cornelius Williams.

Gray, first elected in 2009, said he’s focused on the general election.

“After that, we will hopefully move forward with an agenda we set 12 years ago. We started on that road of rebuilding North Omaha... and the results are obvious.”

Gray said he can build coalitions, pointing to the Highlander housing development, the addition of apartment buildings, affordable housing and senior living facilities.

Johnson said she would help residents and community leaders feel included in discussions on how to move the community forward.

Lathan said his priorities include high-quality jobs with lower barriers of entry and creating more trade jobs.

District 1

In the district that includes Dundee, Benson and Florence, incumbent Pete Festersen will face Sarah Johnson.

First elected to the council in 2009, Festersen, a Democrat, is seeking a fourth term. Johnson, a nonpartisan, is seeking her first elected office. Not advancing are Tyeisha Kosmicki and Paul Anderson, both Republicans.

Festersen, a vice president at CHI Health, said his vote totals indicate broad-based support.

“Voters are rewarding our hard work during these difficult times,” he said. “We need proven leadership that can bring people together to lead our economic recovery.”

Festersen was one of the authors of Omaha’s mask mandate and has worked to support neighborhood business districts.

Johnson said Omaha is ready for change. She said she will work full time as a council member and her nonpartisan affiliation will allow her to appeal across party lines.

“If we keep voting the way we voted for last 12 years we’re not going to see any progress,” she said. “It’s not just about District 1, it’s about people across the city wanting more for Omaha.”

Johnson co-founded the local transportation advocacy group ModeShift Omaha, operated Omaha Bicycle Co. in Benson and has served on the Benson Business Improvement District board.

District 4Vinny Palermo took a clear lead in the district, which represents South Omaha.

Becky Barrientos-Patlan was running a distant second in the primary. Ben Cass and Sarah Smolen were trailing.

Palermo, a small-business owner, is seeking a second term on the council. He has previously said he understands the importance of taking care of inner-city kids and creating jobs to improve quality of life.

Palermo did not return calls for comment Tuesday night.

Barrientos-Patlan said she was excited to advance, although she congratulated her competitors, too.

“Congratulations to everyone that has put their name on the ballot,” she said. “They do have a vision and they have thoughts on trying to better the world.”

Barrientos-Patlan said she’s paid close attention to the happenings in her district. Neighbors have told her that they’re opposed to the mask mandate, as well as opposed to defunding police. She also hopes to draw more investors and developers to South Omaha.

District 6 Incumbent Brinker Harding led significantly against challenger Naomi Hattaway.

District 7 Challenger Sara Kohen was running a close second to incumbent Aimee Melton.

Our best Omaha staff photos of March 2021

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email:

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