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Cities split on sales tax hikes during primary
May 13, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Lisa Betz-Marquez Rural Gering voter Brittany Rodgers waits for poll volunteer Pat Bennett to find her name on the list of registered voters. Rodgers, who lives south of Gering, was the 62nd voter at the poll on Tuesday.

“Slow and steady” is how Scotts Bluff County Election Commissioner Vera Delaney described the turnout for the May 10 primary election.

“Turnout was on the light side,” Dulaney said. “A couple of the larger precincts voted quite well, but it wasn’t the kind of turnout we usually have for a primary election.”

She said the turnout could have been caused by the small number of issues on the ballot and a number of local races that won’t appear until the November ballot.

Dulaney reported that 5,062 voters cast ballots in the Scotts Bluff County primary, for about 21 percent of registered voters.

Two of those major issues, whether to increase local sales taxes, appeared on both Gering and Scottsbluff ballots. For Gering, it was an extension of the city’s one percent sales tax, earmarked for property tax relief, downtown development and tourism. The voters approved the extension by a large margin, 953 to 289.

For Scottsbluff, their ballot initiative would have increased its sales tax by one-half percent to pay for infrastructure projects. That was rejected by Scottsbluff voters 953 to 785. The current seven percent sales tax would have increased to 7.5 percent had the measure passed.

The field for city council member in Gering’s Ward I was also narrowed in the primary. Former mayor and council member Susan Wiedeman received 173 votes while challenger Alan Doll, another former council member, received 198 votes. They will advance to the November general election, along with candidates from the city’s other three wards. Eliminated was challenger Jennifer Baird, who came in third with 95 votes.

The Scotts Bluff County Commissioners District II race was crowded with five candidates after Steve Stratton of Lyman announced he would not seek another term. Glenn Schleve topped the Republican field with 301 votes. Among challengers, Sam Summerville had 204 votes, followed by Tony Schuler with 169 and Tim Koob with 152.

In November, Schleve will face Tyrel Manley, who ran unopposed as a Libertarian.

Another race of interest was for state senator in District 47. A field of four candidates filed for that position, as current Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala, as a result of term limits, is prevented from running for re-election.

Topping the list and advancing to the general election in the nonpartisan race was Morrill County Commissioner Steve Erdman with 2,949 votes. Erdman is the father of Phil Erdman, who served two terms as state senator for the district.

Erdman’s opponent will be Karl Elmshaeuser of Ogallala, executive director for the West Central Nebraska Development District, who received 2,053 votes. Elmshaeuser had received endorsements from both Schilz and Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Eliminated were Peggy Popps, coordinator for Region 21 Emergency Management CERT program with 1,811, and former Sidney mayor and current council member Dr. Wendall Gaston with 1,422 votes.
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