The Nebraska Democratic Party submitted a letter of intent Thursday to the Democratic National Committee to enter Nebraska as one of the early states in the 2024 presidential nominating calendar.

The DNC is accepting applications from state parties wishing to be one of the first five states in the 2024 presidential primary lineup. It marks the first time in 50 years that the DNC is considering restructuring the primary schedule, according to Jane Kleeb, chair of the state party. Since 1972, Iowa has been the first contest, followed by New Hampshire.

If Nebraska is successful in its campaign, it would replace Iowa as the first state to represent the Midwestern district, but that would not necessarily put Nebraska first in the overall schedule. The DNC could change the order of what districts go first. It is expected to announce a decision later this summer. 

Becoming one of the first primary states is a powerful position, as Kleeb said the earliest states often set the pace for the rest of the presidential primaries. According to Kleeb, Iowa stands a real chance of being ousted from its first position. 

Jane Kleeb presidential primary (use this mug) (copy)


Democrats have criticized Iowa's primary election system, particularly its full caucus, which Kleeb said can discourage voters from participating. She said people have also argued that Iowa's Democratic Party is not diverse enough to be an accurate reflection of the rest of the party.

Nebraska has some competition in the fight. Kleeb said Michigan and Minnesota have also applied to take Iowa's place. Kleeb described Nebraska as an "underdog" in the race. Michigan and Minnesota are more populous, battleground states with higher-ranking Democratic officials to pull for them. But she said there are multiple reasons why Nebraska would be the best choice. 

"We have a lot to sell," Kleeb said. 

Kleeb said Nebraska's separated electoral districts differentiate it from its competitors. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states in the U.S. that award Electoral College votes by congressional district. While Nebraska as a whole heavily favors Republicans, its Omaha-centric 2nd Congressional District has awarded an electoral vote to a Democratic presidential candidate twice in recent years, including Joe Biden in 2020.

Within the state, Kleeb said there is a good mix of voters representing a range of demographics, including rural areas, military members, people of color and unions. 

Though Nebraska has a smaller population, Kleeb said this could benefit the DNC, and increase the chance of Democrats winning in traditionally red states.

Beyond presidential politics, Democrats have struggled to win in Nebraska, where Republicans — with a few exceptions — have held a firm grip on statewide and congressional offices in recent years.

While state Democratic parties are jockeying to move up in the presidential primary calendar, Republicans are maintaining the status quo. The Republican National Committee opted to keep its calendar, ensuring Iowa will go first in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating contest, according to the Associated Press.

2022 Primary Voter's Guide

The Lincoln Journal Star reaches out to candidates in contested local primary races and asks them to participate in our annual Voter's Guide by providing biography information and answering questions relevant to the offices they seek.

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