by Madison Pitsch
SEWARD, Neb — Party lines run deep in the state of Nebraska, according to Corey Gray. Gray, a District 5 Seward County Commissioner Democratic nominee, is in the midst of preparing for campaign season. His only opponent on the ballot? A Republican.
“We’re in Nebraska. Being a Democrat or a Republican absolutely affects who votes for you,” Gray said. “The D and the R [on the ballot] elicit quite a few number of votes without actually having conversations.”
In the state of Nebraska, city-wide and state senate campaigns do not run party-affiliated. County-wide and gubernatorial elections run party-affiliated. Identifying as a Democrat in a largely Republican area, arguably puts Gray at a disadvantage. According to a New York Times compilation of 2016 election votes, two of Nebraska’s 93 counties voted for the Democratic Party in the 2016 Presidential election. In Lancaster County, Democrats won by .2 percent of votes and won in Douglas County by 2.3 percent. All five electoral college votes went to then-candidate Trump.
“As a Democrat in the state of Nebraska, you have to garner trust and be successful locally,” Gray said. “This is not a state or political climate that allows a democrat to jump into a major state seat without some success at the local level.”
How does Gray plan to overcome this mountain in the middle of the aisle? Conversation, canvassing and caring about the community.
“At the county level, all the pieces that make the determination between Democrats and Republicans are not county issues,” Gray said. “That is something I have to canvas to communicate. I have to field questions. At some point somebody is going to ask me about all these platform issues, and at the end of the day, those decisions will not be made by the county commissioner.”
Conversation might just seem like a lot of “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.” That’s where third-parties are going to make the difference for Gray; Republican friends, Republican co-workers, etc. can make or break this election. Gray says he knows what it is like to be the only Democrat in a largely Republican circle, and that it’s easy to stand alone on your ideas if you are able to communicate amicably with others. Gray thinks that winning this election will take people with Republican values stepping out and speaking up for him.
“It’s a huge point for me to say, ‘I don’t need you to agree with me. What I need is for you to believe that I have your best interests in mind,” Gray said. “You deserve an ear whether I agree with you or not. You don’t have to agree with me to know that I have your back, if your back is a representative of my district.”