Lincoln City Councilman and legislative candidate James Michael Bowers
Lincoln City Councilman James Michael Bowers is running for the District 46 seat in the Nebraska Legislature.

Lincoln native James Michael Bowers has made a life out of giving back to his hometown and community.

The 32-years-old Bowers works as a social worker for Dawes Middle School and as a private practice therapist in northeast Lincoln. He was elected to represent the northeast first district for the Lincoln City Council in 2019, and in February, Bowers introduced an ordinance that would ban gay conversion therapy on youth in the city, which passed with a vote of 5-1.

Last week, Bowers announced the next step in his public service: a campaign for the Nebraska Legislature.

Bowers is running for the Legislative District 46 seat, which is currently held by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld who is term-limited out in 2022. Bowers previously ran for the position as a Democrat in 2014, where he initially lost the race to Morfeld.

Bowers said his priorities are building the infrastructure to provide for Nebraska’s growing senior population, fixing the state’s child welfare system and expanding access to healthcare for everyone.

“By 2025, we are going to have more seniors in Lincoln than we are going to have students in LPS,” Bowers said. “It’s become clear that even right now, the resources that are available are stretched really thin. If we don’t address it, we’re going to have a real situation with homeless seniors and seniors not having access to medical care. I think that is really terrifying.”

If elected, Bowers would be the first openly gay man to serve in the State Legislature. He said that while that is not a focus of his campaign, he does think it’s important to give the LGBT community and youth the representation they need.

“I’m not running because I’m gay. I’m running and I just happen to be gay,” he said. “Growing up, the only real exposure that I had to any potential gay or queer role models were the really extreme versions from movies where they were just made fun of. I think it’s important for people to be able to see themselves in positions of leadership that they can then be in one day.”

Bowers said he has been overwhelmed by the support he’s received since his campaign announcement on March 24. Morfeld has voiced his support, and he said that Bowers would make a great state senator.

“I’ve always been really impressed with all of James’s work,” Morfeld said. “He’s an authentic person who works really hard and who cares about people. He’s a passionate advocate for working Nebraskans and Lincolnites. He’s demonstrated that on the city council, and I think that’ll prove true in the Legislature.”

Eric Reiter, a resident of Bowers’s district in Lincoln, said that Bowers embodies what a public servant should be.

“I think he genuinely loves being an elected official, doing his constituents’ services and advocating for folks in his community with no ulterior motives,” Reiter said. “As a person, he brings such a positive energy to politics.”

Reiter was first introduced to Bowers at his campaign launch for the city council, and within five minutes Reiter wanted to volunteer for Bowers’s campaign.

“I knew that I wanted to knock on all the doors and make all of the phone calls,” Reiter said. “I don’t like doing either one of those things, but it was worth it to me because I knew we needed him to represent our city and eventually our state.”

Bowers said he decided to run for the Legislature because many strong leaders are term-limited out in 2022, and the state needs an effective advocate for fixing the state’s broken systems.

“It’s important that we put someone in there that can continue to fight the good fight,” Bowers said. “When we talk about being able to get things done in Nebraska for the child welfare system and for juvenile justice and for equality and equity, I think it’s really important. That’s what’s making me throw my hat into this.”

Senior, Journalism and Film Studies Major, Culture Reporter for The Daily Nebraskan