Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln has been very busy in the last year of his term in the Nebraska State Legislature.
His schedule includes floor debates in the state legislature, committee hearings, other meetings, running a statewide non-profit, planning for a campaign for Lancaster County Attorney and fighting a lawsuit from the Nebraska GOP that could bar him from running in that race. Still, he took time to reflect on his work in the legislature, his impact on his district and what lies ahead for him.
The experience that hooked Morfeld into politics, he said, was when he stepped into a meeting of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Young Democrats as an undergraduate at UNL, where he found like-minded individuals looking to make a difference in their community.
Morfeld said the partisan ire he’s drawn in the legislature at times hasn’t deterred him, but he finds attacks on his character frustrating. Attacks based on policy and values he deeply holds don’t phase him, he said.
“If you get into this work, you have to have a deep sense of who you are and why you are doing what you do,” Morfeld said.
In 2008, before graduating college, he formed Nebraskans for Civic Reform, later renamed Civic Nebraska, from his dorm room, Harper 1008, Morfeld said. The group was politically diverse, he said and wanted to continue to get more people involved in democracy. Now, he said, they have offices in Lincoln, Omaha and Grand Island and employ more than 75 individuals.
After receiving his law degree from UNL, Morfeld ran for state legislature in District 46 in 2014, which covers UNL’s campus and parts of northeast Lincoln. He said he liked his opponent in that election, James Michael Bowers, who now serves on the Lincoln City Council, which made that race difficult to run at times. But running for office was a rush, he said.
“It was exciting, exhausting, and a ton of fun meeting people and finding common connections and values,” Morfeld said.
After winning that race, Morfeld said, the transition to the legislature wasn’t hard, but rewarding and exciting. Sometimes, he said, it was even fun.
“It was not a hard adjustment for me,” he said. “I like a fast-paced and challenging environment, and I love to learn. No matter your age or your experience, there is a lot to learn in the Legislature and your hard work will have a positive impact on two million people’s lives.”
Morfeld has been proud to introduce many pieces of legislation, he said, but his proudest has been Good Samaritan legislation for those seeking medical attention for drug or alcohol-related overdoses.
“I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me and told me stories of them or someone else knowing about the law, utilizing it, and either saving their own or someone else’s life without fear of prosecution,” Morfeld said.
Outside the legislature, he said he’s most proud of advocating for Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. He said 100,000 working Nebraskans will receive affordable healthcare based on that alone.
Morfeld said he decided to run for county attorney because he wants to keep the community safe and contribute less to mass incarceration in the state. He said the lawsuit to bar him from the race was “without merit.”
“It is meant to distract and discredit me but it has backfired,” he said. “I cannot tell you how many people, who are Republican no less, have reached out to me upset about the tactic and decided to support me. The outpouring of support has really been incredible.”
The suit has since been dismissed, and Morfeld’s campaign will continue.
Morfled continues to work with Civic Nebraska as executive director, said Director of Communications Steve Smith, and provides insight and direction to the organization.
The organization’s purpose, Smith said, is to encourage more Nebraskans to become more civically engaged members of their community. The hope, Smith said, is to improve political discourse and engage members of marginalized communities.
Civic Nebraska hosts youth civic leadership programs in local schools, holds civic health programs to monitor and improve civic engagement among adults, and participates in voting rights initiatives to register voters and ensure their votes are counted.
Morfeld said half of his constituents are students at Lincoln universities, and he feels he’s represented them well.
“I am proud of my work with them and proud of all that they have accomplished with me,” he said.
Morfeld keeps an open-door policy for students, said Patrick Baker, 2021-22 executive vice president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, which allows him to remain engaged with the campus community and advocate for their needs.
Morfeld has sponsored and passed bills authored by students, Baker said, and navigates the needs of his unique district,
“Senator Morfeld makes himself present on our campus and works with ASUN to promote civic engagement,” Baker said.
Ultimately, Morfeld said, he’s driven to stay involved in the public sector to create public policy and make decisions that improve the lives of his constituents and all Nebraskans.
“Myself and my family have seen first hand how good public policy can empower people, and how it can also fail and inhibit them,” he said. “I feel strongly that government can level the playing field and make it so all Nebraskans can be successful and pursue their dreams.”