Despite our “party alignment,” there is nothing wrong with voting for a member of the opposite party, which is exactly what I will be doing in the Nebraska gubernatorial race.
Some may ask me, “why is a strong conservative voting for someone not in his party?” My response would be, because the incumbent representing my party no longer represents my views. Furthermore, I do not believe he has fulfilled the office which he currently holds and has not improved the livelihood of most Nebraskans.
The reason for my belief is that I did what every voter should do: have an open conversation with the candidates running for office. I had a conversation with state senator and gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist.
Krist is running on the Democratic ticket after switching from Republican and Independent. “In the 10 years I was in the Legislature, the Republican party twice asked me not to be a Republican anymore and then tried to censor me twice for my votes: once for prenatal care and once for the death penalty,” Kist said in regards to his decision to switch parties.
Krist said he was never bothered by it because he was doing what the people in his district wanted him to do.
“I could no longer continue with the ‘my way or the highway’ party line,” Krist said.
Although he’s running as a Democrat, his core values have not changed—such as him being pro-life.
What also lead up to this decision, is what he describes as “the darkest day of his legislative career.” Krist said that during his last four years in the Legislature, there was no conversation or debate about a line item veto from the governor for funding the disabled community and retirement care facilities. He tried to get senators to take part in a debate to override the veto but was unsuccessful.
The reason why no other senator would take part is because they were bought by the governor. It’s not unknown that Ricketts has funded campaigns for senators who will push his agenda through the unicameral, even when he uses his power to veto.
According to the Ricketts campaign website, “Governor Ricketts has been unafraid to use to use his veto pen to restrict the growth of spending and balance Nebraska’s budget without raising taxes on our families and job creators.”
The governor’s restrictions have hurt the state’s largest economic engine and job provider—the University of Nebraska. Originally Ricketts proposed a four percent cut to the University and other state funded agencies. Luckily, the Legislature only approved a one percent cut.
The governor decided to implement a hiring freeze, reducing the state workforce by 500 jobs, close roughly 1,500 open positions and told the University to not purchase new equipment to further cut the costs, according to his campaign website. Ricketts approved the state’s budget for the fiscal year 2016-2017, providing his cabinet more state funds than the University and community and state colleges.
Ricketts defended his stance when he said told the Nebraka Radio Network, “At the end of the day, we still have to live within our budget, and that’s what every Nebraska family has to do. It’s what every business has to do.”
Krist praised President Hank Bounds and the other University leadership as the “best leadership in the system that we have had in years.”
Krist knows how important the university and college system are to Nebraskans. Specifically, the dual credit enrollment program for high school juniors and seniors, especially for community colleges.
“The community colleges’ dual credit is program is actually mentoring and capturing the attention of juniors and seniors in high schools and introducing them to a non-four-year degree,” Krist said.
The focus on community colleges would be to introduce students not interested in getting a four-year degree into a program where they are able to get a job that is beneficial to not only the state, but to smaller communities.
“The point is, if we are going to have the services we need and to grow Nebraska from within, then we’re going to have to have electricians, plumbers and the like as well as doctors and lawyers and engineers,” Krist said.
Krist knows that college graduates in Nebraska are graduating with an incredible amount of debt and are unsure of what career path they should take. The focus would be on students from rural Nebraska. Students who ranch and farm, by providing them a skill set that allows them to stay in the local community and on their family farm. He is a major supporter of having our high schools provide programs that give students the option to pursue agricultural careers.
Krist has tried twice to legalize the growth of industrial hemp in Nebraska–once in his own bill and the other signing onto a bill.
“When I first say this, people either laugh or get a little twinge of ‘is this guy serious’, and I’m very serious,” Krist said.
The federal government no longer treats industrial hemp as a drug, and states like Wisconsin and Kentucky have now since legalized the growth.
“Based on how it grows, it is great for Western Nebraska,” Krist said.
Krist understands that Nebraska has an agriculture-based economy and wants to take advantage of a major agriculture product. He sees this as an alternative to bringing in large businesses that are granted tax breaks, stay for a few years and then leave—such as Conagra. Krist’s goal would be to encourage entrepreneurship and new agricultural products.
Krist is also campaigning to increase broadband throughout the state, especially in rural areas.
“It’s sad when you live in Crete, Nebraska, when you can tell when the students come back because it takes you twice as long to get on your computer,” Krist said.
He feels broadband needs to be treated like a utility rather than a luxury, partly because agriculture is dependent on connectivity. An example Krist gave was when a remote soil sampler tells a farmer whether the irrigation system should be turned on. Effective broadband makes it easier to get that information.
Problem solving has been a major issue in our political system. As mentioned before, the governor has campaigned for “yes men” to help get his agenda through the unicameral much quicker and without having to veto anything.
“I’m going to pick up the phone—because I have every senator on speed dial—and I’m going to say, hey let’s talk about some ideas on moving forward,” Krist said.
Krist wants to create that consensus between the Legislature and governor again. He wants to “create a fire underneath all of us,” to do the things that we have heard on the campaign trail.
“You have to be able to talk to people. You have to be able to sit down,” Krist said.
This is very unlike the current governor who will blame, deflect and take credit whenever it will look good for him. Ricketts has taken credit for the Facebook data center in Papillion and the Costco poultry factory in Fremont, to name a few examples.
He has blamed the Legislature for not approving his tax plan in April when he said, “it’s time for everyone to come to the table to work together on real tax relief that doesn’t rely on tax increases. It is unacceptable for senators to fail to deliver property tax relief for the second year in a row.”
It’s well-known that Ricketts will act outside of his powers when he doesn’t get his way. When the Legislature removed the death penalty and overrode his veto, the governor helped fund a campaign to get the death penalty on the ballot in the 2016 election.
“I think about the work ethic and ethics of Nebraskans,” Krist said, when asked what it means to be a Nebraskan.
Family and community are also important to Nebraskans, he said. Krist has those values and isn’t afraid to express them. I believe he will fight for every Nebraskan, no matter if they are in the bustling streets of Omaha or the Sandhills of Stapleton.
In regards to the new tourism slogan Krist said, “I want to cross it out in a big red ‘x’, and say Nebraska is for everyone.”
“We don’t like taking handouts,” Krist said. “We don’t like being told something can’t be done. We like to be allowed to do the things than can be done.”