GOP Candidates for Nebraska Gov. debate at UNO

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May 2nd, 2014

Omaha, NE – The six men vying for a spot in November’s general election, to replace Dave Heineman as Nebraska Governor, mostly evaded specific questions asked by moderator Mike’l Severe. The debate was co-sponsored by the Omaha World Herald and UNO Television.

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But there were times of precision from the candidates. For instance, Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley referenced his experience as auditor and his ability to stand up to dishonesty, even to members of his own team.

“I’ve demonstrated courage and conviction and stood up for the tax payers of this state and exposing waste and corruption in state government even when it has meant standing up against members of my own party,” Foley said. “Republican candidates often speak about their pro-life convictions and the need to eliminate waste in government services, well I walk the talk.”

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Sen. Beau McCoy before Thursday night's debate (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Sen. Beau McCoy before Thursday night’s debate (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

Tax attorney Bryan Slone expressed his experience in business at Deloitte Tax LLP in Omaha as proof of his experience to lead. Slone was the only candidate to say he would keep the possibility of a sales tax increase on the table as the governor to ‘get the job done’.

“There are lots of things that we are afraid of talking about politically in this state that we’ve got to deal with,” Slone said. “We are a high taxed state but we cannot solve that until we deal with ‘sacred cows.’ We’ve got to cut spending, we’ve got to be able to reform education and we’ve got to be able to talk about moving the tax base from property to sales tax to some extent in a revenue neutral fashion to solve the property tax problem.”

Tom Carlson brought up his eight years in the Nebraska Unicameral, as unifier and as someone who gets to the bottom of the toughest questions. Carlson said rural Nebraska is often forgotten about when decisions are made that affect the entire state.

“I’m the only Republican candidate who lives in rural Nebraska,” Sen. Carlson said. “I know the importance of agriculture and livestock production to our state. I know the importance of water sustainability so that the entire state can move forward. I know that puts us, as a state, in the best financial position of any state in the United States.”

State Sen. Beau McCoy steered the conversation to the fact that, if elected, he may be the only Nebraska Governor to have a community college degree. He also said he knows what it is like to raise kids and save money.

“We’re like any other family in Nebraska,” McCoy said. “We know what it means to go to the grocery store and see grocery prices going up or going to the gas station and realize the price of gas is going up. It is a struggle for families and small businesses across Nebraska and I’ve been a part of that. I know what it means to work very, very hard and I’m just a guy that is trying to make a difference.”

Pete Ricketts, former CEO of TD Ameritrade, brought up his time in business and his experience working with people as a key reason he would do well as governor. He also said his lack of experience in politics is to his benefit as he is a ‘fresh start’ instead of the same old, same old.

“As I’ve traveled 31,000 miles across this state, people have asked me ‘Pete, why do you want to be Governor?’ And the answer at the end of the day is, because I want to help grow Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “Governor Heineman has done a great job on keeping a lid of taxes and spending. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. To do that we need to improve education outcomes for all our kids, grow the economy, especially in agriculture and manufacturing and create more and better paying job here in the state.”

Jon Bruning, Nebraska’s attorney general for 12 years, said he is ready to lead on day one. He also said there are big differences between him and the other candidates.

“I think there is one thing when you look at this race that differentiates me from these men and that one thing is experience,” Bruning said. “Everybody else talks about the issues, I’ve led on the issues. So I am tested and I am ready to lead on day one. We need a governor that is ready to fight the federal government; I know how to do that.”

Nebraska’s statewide primary election day is set for May 13th, with polls opening at 8 a.m. The winner of the Republican primary will face off against Democratic challenger Chuck Hassebrook, in November’s general election.

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