Ungerman and Clough hope to flip seats in the Nebraska Legislature
Ben "Felix" Ungerman and Matt Clough speak to guests at the Pachyderm Luncheon in Omaha, Neb.

Ungerman and Clough hope to flip seats in the Nebraska Legislature

While the Nebraska legislature is nominally non-partisan, it’s usually clear where the party lines are drawn, particularly when overcoming a filibuster. Republicans make up 32 of the 49 seats in the legislature, just one vote shy of a filibuster-proof majority. Pro-Life Democrat Mike McDonnell provided that 33rd vote last year, and he was censured by his own party for helping to pass the Let Them Grow Act, which restricts sex change treatments for minor children and abortion after 12 weeks.

Republicans are now hoping to flip a few more seats this year to solidify their majority.

Ben “Felix” Ungerman in District 3

Democrat Carol Blood held onto her District 3 seat by less than one percentage point in 2020. She then went on to run for governor against Jim Pillen in 2022, a race she lost by 23.8%. Termed out in 2024, Blood is now hoping to replace Mike Flood in the US Congress. Her seat in the legislature, in the meantime, looks like a possibility for a flip.

Ben “Felix” Ungerman

Ben “Felix” Ungerman is hoping to be the one to flip that seat, which hasn’t had a Republican since Tommy Garrett in 2014. Ungerman is a 25-year retired air force colonel and former deputy chief of staff for Congressman Don Bacon.

At the Pachyderm luncheon on Monday, Ungerman talked at length about his military service. He hopes the United States will continue to support Israel after the events of Oct. 7, 2023, much like other countries supported the United States after Sept. 11, 2001, which he observed while stationed in the Republic of Georgia.

Ungerman then highlighted a series of legislative proposals in the Nebraska state legislature that served as the impetus for his running.

“There’s LB 626 last year, for standing up for Life … an elimination of sexually explicit content from the books in schools that failed in our legislature,” Ungerman said. “I am going to absolutely be about those things. We have to defend the innocence of our children.”

Other proposals Ungerman highlighted were LB1092, which requires age verification to access online pornography, and LB575, which would restrict access to youth sports and bathrooms to those of the same biological sex.

“It isn’t the same as when I grew up, and I’m concerned about the future,” Ungerman said. “Now I recognize this is the time to stand up, to speak out, to get involved in every way and any chance I can.”

Matt Clough in District 13

Matt Clough

The last time District 13 had a choice of candidates was in Nov. 2016, when it was a race between two democrats — Justin Wayne and Jill Brown. Wayne won by just over 2% and then ran unopposed in 2020. Now Matt Clough, a resident of District 13 since 1985, hopes to give voters a choice.

“I got in because there wasn’t a Republican in the race,” Clough said. “And I just found that unconscionable, that we could have a legislative district, purple as it is, without a Conservative Republican being offered as a choice.”

Clough spent six years with the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human services and hopes to bring his working knowledge of the agency to work in the Unicameral. “So the governor says, ‘I’d like to see a reduction in general funds.’ That’s state money. And you got to realize within DHHS, you may have to spend a dime of state money to get 90 cents of federal money,” Clough said. “So it’s not a 10 cent cut — it’s a dollar cut. And it becomes very difficult to manage some of that and to understand how those those checkbooks play off of one another.”

Clough also mentioned that federal dollars often come with conditions. “I appreciated the governor recently trying to hold back on some of those federal gifts,” Clough said, “because there are always strings attached. And there are always things that Feds are going to want us to do to capture those dollars. And money is addictive — once it’s coming in, it’s really hard not to continue to take it.”

Looking to November

Republicans have faced an uphill battle since Roe v. Wade was overturned as abortion has proven to be a galvanizing issue for Democrats, particularly when abortion is on the ballot. This will likely be the case in Nebraska, as a ballot initiative to create a constitutional right to abortion is being circulated.

Nevertheless, former Mayor Hal Daub expressed optimism about the prospect of Republicans gaining seats in the legislature this year.

“We are looking forward to 35, 36, maybe 37 Republican members of the Legislature,” Daub said. “We’ve got a great cast of candidates as you can see, and in that process the committee assignment opportunities are something to think about a little earlier.”