Nebraska’s Legislative District 8 encompasses some rapidly growing areas like Benson and Dundee. The candidates to take over State Senator Burke Haar have been exclusively Democrats the whole way through; but with the elimination of legislative staffer Josh Henningsen, the two remaining candidates: Businessperson Megan Hunt and Organizer Mina Davis, are left in a competitive match. Gateway writer Jeff Turner sat down with Ms. Hunt to discuss the issues and her plans for her tenure in office. They spoke on education policy, small business and LGBTQ issues.
Jeff Turner: What are some suggestions you would offer for drawing in new businesses?
Megan Hunt: Where I think Nebraska has failed in the past is when they talk about giving incentives to businesses and business owners, that’s been primarily going to the bigger corporations in Nebraska. There’s small business owners and workers who are really not getting any benefit from those incentives. There are tax incentives and tax credits and a lot of loopholes that bigger corporations are able to take advantage of because they have the means and the bandwidth and the departments to do that. At my company, we employ twelve women including some contract workers. We’re not able to offer benefits, but we work hard to offer a fair wage and we support each other. We’ve helped employees pay for school, and that’s how small businesses are often run. We should help support entrepreneurs here in the state, who are burdened, often by healthcare. The social policies of the left and the economic policies of the right are totally compatible. We should be talking about our immigrant community, who contain a lot of entrepreneurs and who contribute a lot to our economy, and how they’re disrespected as well.
Jeff Turner: You have an education policy promising affordable college tuition. Elaborate on that.
Megan Hunt: What we need to do here is work with Metropolitan Community College to provide free tuition. It’s something that other states have done, red states included, and Metro has voiced interest. This will be a really important first step. We have to keep in mind that four year colleges are not for everybody and that we have accessible trade opportunities and trade schools, and that there’s affordable community college in Nebraska. It’s a values thing for me, I believe education is a right but I’m also a pragmatist.
Jeff Turner: Nebraska is credited as one of the sixteen states that want to make it legal to fire someone for their gender identity, you’re credited as someone who stands up for LGBTQ rights, how would you protect Trans people?
Megan Hunt: I absolutely oppose this, I’m bisexual. I would be the first person openly from the LGBT community elected to the Nebraska legislature. Employment protection laws for LGBT people are past due in Nebraska. I think it’s embarrassing. Senator’s Morfield and Patty Pansing Brooks have bought up the topic in the past, but the legislature hasn’t been able to pass anything. I will never be able to relate to the experiences of a trans person and I have never been fired because of my sexual orientation. I think the more exposure people have to these groups, the more civil rights we will be able to bring them through policy. This would be a priority for me, along with things such as conversion therapy, which is still legal in Nebraska.
Jeff Turner: What are some ways you would help improve conditions in Nebraska prisons?
Megan Hunt: I think we place too much emphasis on retribution and punishment instead of rehabilitation. We also have a lot of people in our prison system who do not belong there, people who are in there for things like nonviolent drug crimes. When we continue to arrest people for these sorts of nonviolent crimes while our prisons are overcrowded, it becomes a civil rights issue and an economic issue. What we need to do in Nebraska is begin to reconcile our failed War on Drugs. I would be in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, but not without allowing people with marijuana convictions to expunge their records. These are predominately people of color and they’re jailed for marijuana crimes disproportionately. These are people who should be with their families and contributing to their communities. As a white woman, I often ponder what I could do to help these communities and I think the best solution is just to listen to them and listen to their needs. We also need to invest in early childhood education to combat the school-to-prison pipeline, and I think Nebraska is in a unique position to be a leader on this, but we need to elect people who prioritize that.
Jeff Turner: In this race, there are two Democrats running and no Republican. What are some ways that you would distinguish yourself from your Democratic opponent?
Megan Hunt: I wish there were always two Democrats in the race. I wish there were so many Democrats interested in running that were such formidable and powerful candidates. My opponent and I share a lot of similar views on the issues, so I think for a lot of voters its coming down to personality and experience. Mina and I are different people, but if she were elected, I would be happy to have her as my representative. What I think makes me a more qualified candidate are things like my experience as a mother and my experience as a business owner. I’ve worked with budgets; I’ve worked with payroll. I have a long record of working with the nonprofits in the area; through our company we’ve helped raise money for organizations such as the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. I acknowledge that I’ve taken heat from both sides for doing this, but I believe that more business owners should use their influence for political activism. Business ownership is a privilege and I’ve worked hard to be worthy of the gift, which we’ve done by putting our revenue back into the community. Our employees all make more money than my co-owner or I do. Retaining them and making sure we keep good talent is an integral part of running our business. This has given me a lot of insight into policies I might have the opportunity to vote on, and I have experience working with people who think differently than me. I don’t have anything disparaging to say about my opponent, I wish her well regardless of the outcome of this race. I appreciate her efforts to run a positive race.
The Gateway is attempting to schedule an interview with Mina Davis but has not yet been able to do so.