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Newscast 5.14.2024: Primary voting underway in Nebraska; WITCC officials criticized over lawsuits; Iowa's Bird among those defending Trump in NYC trial; Caitlin Clark to make WNBA hoops premiere

People in Nebraska today have the chance to vote in primary election contests, which reduce the number of candidates from the political parties that move onto the November ballot.

Polls will be open until 8 p.m. in Nebraska counties.

There is one competition for a legislative position in Northeast Nebraska, in District 17. State Senator Joni Albrecht is exiting her time in that post representing people in Dakota, Wayne and Thurston counties.

There are three candidates in the District 17 primary, including the husband of the senator, Mike Albrecht, plus Cindy Kai and Glen Meyer.

In another area contest, this evening marks the end of three weeks of mail-in balloting concerning a $20 million bond issue proposal to build a new county courthouse in Dixon County.

County employees currently work in two aging multi-story buildings that sit side-by-side, with the first one dating to 1883 and the other was added in 1940. The fact that the jail is on the top floor at times causes security concerns.

If passed, a new single-story building for employee offices and a jail will be built on a tract of land along Nebraska Highway 12.

A notable statewide race is for the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat. The three senatorial candidates are incumbent Pete Ricketts, plus Mac Stevens and John Weaver.

*In other news, community members are asserting that Western Iowa Tech Community College officials need to be more transparent about lawsuits filed by international students who accused the school of human trafficking.

They took their concerns to the college Board of Trustees meeting on Monday.

College officials in April reached a $3 million settlement with 13 Chilean students who said they were forced into manual labor jobs to pay off tuition.

The students, who took part in a Federal J-1 Visa program, filed a lawsuit in November 2020. They say the college promised a free two-year program with internships, but they were forced into manual labor jobs to pay off tuition.

Sioux City Businessman Dave Bernstein said this issue has “greatly tarnished the reputation” of the college.

“I think there's great concern over the fact that most likely there will be additional settlements taking that number up significantly, whether or not you actually have insurance in place to cover that or not. Whether that's going to take a hit to tuitions or come out of your state funding or come out of the levy that goes against property tax holders within this area, I think that's a very significant concern,” Bernstein said.

Board members did not respond during the meeting, and college officials declined to comment on Tuesday.

A lawsuit is still pending against Sioux City area companies and individuals involved with the former program. Meanwhile, a separate case involving ten students from Brazil is ongoing, with a trial scheduled for next May

Siouxland Public Media is licensed by Western Iowa Tech, and station workers are employed by the college.

*Additionally, the hush money trial of former president Donald Trump continued on Tuesday, as such notable Republicans as House Speaker Mike Johnson and others held press conferences outside the New York courthouse to criticize the proceedings.

One other Republican taking that line on Monday was Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, who asserted that the criminal prosecution of Trump amounts to election interference.

In an emailed statement, Bird said, quote, “I am glad to stand with President Trump in New York today in opposition to the lawfare being waged against him.”

Bird supported Trump during the Iowa Caucuses, and he said after his victory on caucus night that Bird is going to be governor of Iowa someday.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Rita Hart criticized Bird, saying, quote, “Iowans deserve an attorney general that’s focused on serving her constituents—not her political ambitions.” Bird’s office said no taxpayer dollars were used for her travel, but didn’t say how the trip was paid for.

* About five weeks after Caitlin Clark ended her decorated college career in the NCAA championship game, she is set to make her regular season debut in the WNBA on Tuesday night.

The former University of Iowa Hawkeyes star is learning on the fly how to translate her game to the professional ranks.

Clark was picked first in the WNBA draft after going back-to-back as the National Player of the Year in women’s college basketball. She is adjusting to a new league and a new team, the Indiana Fever.

Following Indiana’s final preseason game, Clark said one of the biggest changes she’s noticed from college to the WNBA is the physical defense, along with the speed of the game.

“No matter who you're guarding, no matter if you're on offense or defense, you breathe for one second and you're not looking at your man and she's on the other side of the court. So, I think that's the biggest thing is everybody's so skilled, like, this is the most competitive league in the world because there's not that many spots. So, every person that's getting on the floor is really, really talented,” Clark said.

Clark scored a combined 33 points in two preseason games with the Fever. The team opens the season on the road against the Connecticut Sun.