Race for Omaha’s District 10

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October 28th, 2010

Omaha, NE – Two Republicans are vying to represent Northwest Omaha in the Nebraska Legislature. One is running for his first election defending his seat, after being appointed by the Governor; the other is a small business owner trying to run from the outside.

Bob Krist is defending his District 10 seat (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

Bob Krist was appointed to the District 10 seat by Governor Dave Heineman in 2009, after former senator Mike Friend was given the job of running the state Office of Violence Prevention. A retired Lt. Col. for the U.S. Air Force, Krist served as active duty air force advisor to then-Governor Ben Nelson, and has also served on the board of the Madonna School, which serves special needs children. In a recent interview with KVNO News, Krist said his experience in the Legislature gives him an edge over his opponent. With newly implemented term limits at the Capitol, Krist said voters should send people back who’ve had some time to figure out the process.

“Whoever comes to this,” Krist said, “until they’ve stood at the mic and defended what they believe in… that is a huge, steep learning curve, trust me.” Krist said he hopes “the folks in district 10 will look at Bob Krist and say he’s just getting started, he knows the process, let’s send him back and give him his own four year term and see what he can do.”

Krist’s opponent, Tim Lonergan, is a former school teacher, who now owns his own lawn care company. He also sits in an elected office on the Metropolitan Community College Board. Lonergan said he differs from the Republican Party, the Democrats and the Tea Party. He supports working families, he said, which separates him from some Republicans; he’s “extremely” pro-life, he said, which separates him from some Democrats; and while he identifies with the frustrations of the Tea Party, he said he finds elements of the group too “radical.”

"I'll let the people put labels on me" (Photo courtesy Metropolitan Community College)

“I’m kind of an independent, Republican moderate, I guess you’d call me, I don’t know.” Laughing, he added, “I’m Tim Lonergan running for state Legislature. I’ll let people put labels on me.”

Lonergan and Krist have their differences. On taxes, while both agree they want to avoid raising taxes as much as possible, Lonergan appears to see it in starker terms. “The most important issue that keeps getting hammered to me over and over again is please don’t raise my taxes. The general person out there is just sick of it and they don’t want their taxes raised anymore.”

Lonergan said his district would rather see cuts to services and programs than tax hikes. To be fair and “spread the pain evenly,” he said he would support across-the-board cuts to help close the state’s projected $700 billion dollar budget shortfall.  But when asked about specific cuts to education, Lonergan said he wouldn’t support taking funds out of the classroom, and said cuts should be directed at “top-heavy” education departments that have too many administrators. Krist said he’s hopeful deep cuts won’t be necessary. He called taxes a necessary evil, and said fee increases may be a fair way to boost revenue. But there are more cuts out there to be made, he said, and government needs to change the way it does business.

“We need to look at ways to do business smarter, differently,” he said. “Does that mean long-term cuts in services? I don’t think so, but it does mean changes to the way we do business.” He added he’s optimistic the budget crisis won’t go on forever. “We just need to weather this storm, and Nebraska’s in such a good position to do that.”

The two also differ on illegal immigration, bound to be a hot topic when the Legislature re-convenes in January. Krist, who has had experience with the immigration system helping his daughter-in-law navigate it, said it is far too complex, and more needs to be done to simplify the process. And, he said if a bill modeled after Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration bill is introduced next year, which is likely, he would not support it.  “I would not support any activity that would put us in the position that Arizona’s in right now… I don’t believe that landing the state in a situation where it’s defending its laws in front of the Supreme Court is going to get us further down the road.”

Without giving a full endorsement, Lonergan said he would “lean toward” supporting an Arizona-style bill, and emphasized the point that illegal immigrants are breaking the law. “Regardless of if it’s you or me, if we do an illegal act, if someone’s not following the law, our brothers down in Mexico, it’s illegal.”

The two agree on some issues. Asked whether the state should continue its efforts to privatize foster care, which have hit roadblocks after several private contracts fell through, both said it’s time to take a step back and re-group. On creating new jobs in high unemployment areas, Krist did not have specific suggestions, but pointed to a lead-abatement bill he introduced in the Legislature to illustrate his concern for North Omaha, where unemployment is at record highs. Lonergan said he has no specific plans to bring jobs to the chronically unemployed, but said the proposed Keystone pipeline should be supported as a potential job creator across the entire state.  District 10 voters will get to choose their candidate November 2nd.

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