Mayoral election in Lincoln, Nebraska (2023)

The city of Lincoln, Nebraska, is both the state capital and the second-largest city in Nebraska after Omaha. Lincoln has a population of approximately 289,000 people. It is home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a major public research university. Politically, Lincoln leans more liberal compared to the rest of Nebraska.

Previewing the lincoln mayor race 2023

In 2023, Lincoln held an election for mayor between incumbent Democrat Leirion Gaylor Baird and Republican challenger Suzanne Geist. The race saw divisive partisan campaigning and record fundraising. Ultimately, Gaylor Baird was reelected to a second term as Lincoln’s mayor.

Examining the Candidates

Incumbent Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s Background

Leirion Gaylor Baird was first elected mayor of Lincoln in 2019. She previously served on the Lincoln City Council. Gaylor Baird affiliated with the Democratic Party. In her first term, Gaylor Baird stated that public safety was her top priority as mayor.

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Gaylor Baird’s Platform Focused on Progressive Policies

In seeking reelection, Gaylor Baird campaigned on continuing her progressive policy agenda. She highlighted her support for police and firefighters while also pushing for reforms. Gaylor Baird embraced LGBTQ rights and access to abortion. She also called for investments in areas like climate action, affordable housing, and racial equity.

Republican Challenger Suzanne Geist’s Political Career

Suzanne Geist resigned from her seat representing District 25 in the Nebraska Legislature to run for Lincoln mayor. Geist affiliated with the Republican Party and served in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Senate since 2017 before stepping down.

Geist Ran on Fiscal Conservatism, Law and Order Focus

Geist described herself as a fiscal conservative focused on public safety and supporting law enforcement. She criticized Gaylor Baird as being weak on crime. Geist also opposed policies like abortion access and transgender rights that Gaylor Baird embraced.

Examining the Primary and General Elections

Gaylor Baird Led in Primary; Geist Second

In Lincoln’s nonpartisan primary election on April 4, Gaylor Baird received 48.6% of the vote. Geist received 33.9%, winning the second runoff spot. Republican Stan Parker got 17.4% of the primary vote before endorsing Geist.

Divisive Campaigning Seen in General Election

The campaign between Gaylor Baird and Geist grew divisive, with the candidates criticizing each other’s records. Gaylor Baird said Geist’s conservative agenda on social issues would hurt Lincoln. Geist attacked Gaylor Baird as weak on crime and supporting the “defund the police” movement.

Fundraising Totals Doubled Previous Records

Both Gaylor Baird and Geist raised over $1 million for the general election campaign, far surpassing Lincoln’s past fundraising records for mayoral races. The huge campaign war chests reflected the competitive and contentious nature of the race.

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Gaylor Baird Wins Reelection as Expected

Incumbent Mayor Defeats Geist Decisively

In the end, Leirion Gaylor Baird defeated Suzanne Geist decisively in the May 2 general election to win a second term as Lincoln’s mayor. Gaylor Baird received 54% of the vote compared to 46% for Geist. Voter turnout was very high for a local election.

Lincoln Bucks GOP Trend Seen in Other Cities

The election result reinforced Lincoln’s status as a left-leaning outlier in conservative Nebraska. The city has had only Democratic mayors dating back to 1998. Most of the nation’s 100 largest cities now have Democratic mayors, but Lincoln went against the tide seen in some other spots.

Other Local Races Also on the Ballot

In addition to the marquee mayoral election, Lincoln voters chose city council members and airport authority commissioners on May 2. The mayor’s race dominated headlines, but these down-ballot races also impacted local governance.


Summarizing Key Aspects of the Race

In review, Lincoln’s 2023 mayoral election saw incumbent Democrat Leirion Gaylor Baird face an aggressive challenge from Republican Suzanne Geist. The campaign centered around issues like crime, social issues, and partisan divides. Gaylor Baird ultimately prevailed with her progressive policy vision, carrying on Lincoln’s Democratic leadership amid a red Nebraska. This hard-fought race reflected how local elections are increasingly politicized in a polarized era.


What were the backgrounds of the two mayoral candidates?

Incumbent Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird was a Democrat previously on Lincoln’s city council. Challenger Suzanne Geist was a Republican state senator representing a Lincoln district.

How did the primary election shape the general election campaign?

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Gaylor Baird and Geist were the top two finishers in the nonpartisan primary. The third-place Republican candidate endorsed Geist for the general election.

What were some key issues debated in the general election?

Key issues included crime, policing, abortion access, LGBTQ rights, housing, climate change, and partisan divides locally.

How did fundraising play a role in this election?

Both candidates raised over $1 million, doubling the previous fundraising record for a Lincoln mayoral race. This reflected the competitive and expensive nature of the campaign.

Did the final result reflect partisan voting trends nationally?

No. Lincoln voted to reelect a Democratic mayor despite most big cities electing Republicans recently. This showed Lincoln’s more liberal leanings.

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