Multiple Candidates Already Aiming for 2020 Unicameral Election
July 12th, 2019
OMAHA, Neb. — The primary elections in Nebraska next May might seem a long way away to voters, but candidates for a state senate seat are already laying the groundwork for 2020 campaigns.
Marque Snow and Mark Vondrasek both announced in June their intentions to run for Legislative District 9 in midtown Omaha. They are vying to replace Sara Howard, who has served since 2013; term limits prohibit Howard from running for re-election next year.
Snow is President of the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education and represents Subdistrict 2, which covers a number of schools, including Central High and North High Magnet. He was first elected to the board in 2013.
On his experience with OPS, Snow says, “Don’t underestimate the challenges of the Omaha public school board. I think the school board has prepared me for this; I have the experience of working with my colleagues, you know, building consensus.”
He listed three areas he wants to focus on during his campaign: community, education, and small business & entrepreneurship. The first issue revolves around creating opportunities for young people and families to remain and thrive in Nebraska.
“Redefine the good life for the citizens in Nebraska, and really push forward for Nebraska,” Snow says. “And we have to start thinking outside that box. At the end of the day, we have this challenge of population. How do we keep people and retain them here?”
Supporting public education, encouraging entrepreneurship, and training workers for specialized trades are all tactics he says can contribute to keeping people within District 9 and in the state as a whole.
“I mean, they live here, work here; they go to school here; they’re going to invest in here; they’re going to have families here; they’re going to thrive here. And it’s going to continue to make the good life. Not just good for the few, but good for all.”
This will be Vondrasek’s first turn as a candidate, but he has previously worked with several progressive campaigns as an activist and volunteer. He is currently a mechanic with Omaha’s bicycle share program.
“Well, I’ll be honest,” he begins, “I’ve been planning on running for this specific office in this specific race at this time, for a long time, more than five years, probably. The bike share program really gets me out into the districts like on a daily basis. I’m just all over doing work out on the street, talking to people literally every day. So I’m very accessible all the time.”
Vondrasek, who labels himself a socialist but has stayed within the Democratic Party to encourage a shift further left on the ideological spectrum, says that combating climate change and finding new energy solutions in Nebraska is his first priority.
“The Republicans and the Democrats in the Legislature are going to focus on the economic impacts of all that,” says Vondrasek. “And I think the seriousness of the climate change emergency, the climate crisis necessitates that we forget about the profit motive and do what’s necessary, for honestly the survival of the human race.”
Without a car, Vondrasek relies on his bike and would need to find a ride from Omaha to Lincoln should he be elected to the Legislature. With this in mind, he says that another thing he wants to focus on during his campaign is public transit in Nebraska.
“I’d like there to be a passenger training from Omaha to Lincoln, you know, six to however many trains to and from Omaha to Lincoln every single day, so that people can commute via train and not have to drive,” he says. “There are thousands of people who drive to Lincoln back every single day for work. And it makes no sense. We’ve got to start doing things differently.”
Looking forward, Snow stresses the importance of continually engaging with the people in his district. Listening to his constituents about the issues they face, he says, is key to helping him find solutions to those problems.
“We’re going to hit the ground running,” Snow says. “Some people said that, you know, it’s probably too early to kind of start, but I don’t really believe that. I want to make sure that I can see face to face with every constituent and actually hear their needs and be able to advocate for them and speak for them when I go to Lincoln.”
Vondrasek knows his open criticism of capitalism and embrace of socialism may, as he says, ‘ruffle some feathers,’ but it isn’t something he’s going to back down from as he campaigns for the Legislature.
“I think it really helps me stand out from other candidates, honestly, especially on issues about climate change, public transportation, and housing. We’ve got to do something a little bit different. And I think District 9, specifically, is ready to try something a little bit different.”
Nebraska’s primary elections next year will be held on Tuesday, May 12.
UPDATE: Following the completion of this story, a third candidate, John Cavanaugh, joined the race for the LD9 seat, per the Omaha World-Herald. Cavanaugh, brother of current state senator Machaela Cavanaugh, is the Assistant Public Defender for Douglas County.