Q&A: Paul Landow talks 2014 GOP primary candidates for governor


March 14th, 2014

Omaha, NE – The general election for Nebraska governor will take place in November 2014. Six Republican candidates will face off in the primary in May.





The winner gets to take on Democratic candidate for governor, Chuck Hassebrook. State Senators Tom Carlson and Beau McCoy have added their names to the hat for governor along with Omaha tax attorney Bryan Slone. State Auditor Mike Foley, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and former Republican National Committee member Pete Ricketts are also in the running for the governor’s seat.

KVNO: Dr. Paul Landow is a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Landow.

Landow: Glad to be here thanks for the invitation.

KVNO: Taking a look at the Republican Primary and the candidates – in a primary where there is usually a small turnout, will social issues make the difference since candidates are all the same fiscally?

Landow: All of these candidates have about the same position on most of the social issues. There may be a little bit of difference here and there. So what I think you would really be seeing is a variation of your question. Which is the candidates trying to ‘out conservative’ each other. “I’m more conservative than you are’, ‘No, I’m more conservative than you are.’” That will manifest itself in economic and social issues distinctions. But there may not be a lot of distinctions.

Paul Landow is assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. (Photo Courtesy UNO)

Paul Landow is assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. (Photo Courtesy UNO)

KVNO: Are there differences between the GOP candidates on amnesty, illegal immigration and border control?

Landow: There is not a lot of difference between the candidates. The differences come in the experience that each candidate brings to the table. Because the experience generally informs how that candidates feels about the issues. But I think you would have to say that in terms of the broad context of each issue – that republican candidates are each the same.

KVNO: With each candidate basically being the same and everyone trying to stand out from the pack will ‘how pro-life’ someone is factor into who gets the votes in the end?

Landow: Possibly and to some extent, but again as a practical matter, pro-life, is pro-life. Maybe one candidate will get the Nebraska Right to Life endorsement and the others won’t. Maybe a few will and some won’t. But as a practical matter they all are going to be pro-life or claim they are pro-life. So it will be difficult to say I am more pro-life than you are.

KVNO: How much will we be hearing about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare during the Primary?

Landow: A lot, all the time, 24/7. Republican candidates around the country are running against the AFA, you just saw recently the special congressional election in suburban Tampa, where the Republican won in a close vote. But the Republican won. The Republican candidate ran full-time against the AFA – his position was ‘it is unfixable, it needs to be repealed,’ the Democratic candidate said ‘it’s not unfixable, it needs to be fixed, but we shouldn’t repeal it.’ Both of the campaigns were based on that theme. Money poured in from all over the country. Lots of ad money, expensive races and the republican ended up winning. The Republicans are convinced that’s their winning message. So that is about all you are going to hear between now and November.

KVNO: Dave Heineman is Nebraska’s longest serving governor, how are candidates going to using the governor in their campaigns or at least trying to?

Landow: Well first of all Governor Heineman has not endorsed anyone yet. Although it is entirely possible he will. But even if he doesn’t, each candidate will be using him the best they can. “I was proud to work with Governor Heineman’, ‘I’ve been working with Governor Heineman for the past eight years’, ‘Governor Heineman and I served in state government together. He is a popular, well respected guy,’ the Republican candidates are certainly going to try to tie themselves to him.

KVNO: Pete Ricketts, 2006 Senate nominee and co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, his campaign slogan is ‘Bald and Bold’ – do you think this is to try to get away from the ‘rich person’ tag that some have placed on him?

Landow: Yes. He is attempting to try to be the common man. That will be a tough sell for him. On the other hand he’s got a record of public service, he’s got a record in business, he’s got a really good name and he’s got plenty of money. He will be a credible candidate – he is solid.

KVNO: Mike Foley is the Nebraska State Auditor and he also served on the Nebraska Appropriations Committee during his time in the Unicameral, does his background help his chances?

Landow: Sure, again it demonstrates a commitment to public service. Beyond that he has run statewide, he has been on the ballot statewide, he is known around Nebraska, he is known very well in Lincoln and particularly well in conservative, religious communities in Nebraska. He is a candidate with credibility. His problem however, is he is not going to be able to compete financially with Attorney General Bruning and Mr. Ricketts. That will hurt him badly.

KVNO: Beau McCoy is a member of the Nebraska Legislature representing district 39. Why has McCoy recently stopped yielding to questions to State Senator Ernie Chambers in the Nebraska Unicameral?

Landow: The reason would be because he can’t win against Ernie Chambers. Senator Chambers is whip smart, a tremendous debater and very experienced. There is no way you can win a debate against Senator Chambers. Senator McCoy knows it, and he is trying to stay away from it.

KVNO: Jon Bruning is the current Attorney General of Nebraska, he was seen last weekend at the sold out Nebraska basketball game sitting next to former Husker NDamukong Suh. Does Bruning need the exposure?

Landow: General Bruning is well known statewide. He has run a number of times on the state ballot. Not to mention he was a state senator prior to being attorney general, his name I.D. is not a problem. His problem is the Omaha World Herald, among others, have tagged with some conflicts of interest and some issues of shall we say benefiting financially from his political office. The question is how much of that will stick in a republican primary.

KVNO: How about Omaha tax attorney Bryan Slone, we haven’t heard much about him lately what is your take on Slone?

Landow: He is obviously well qualified. There is no question about that. And he has got some support among some key Omaha business people. But his problem of course is the obvious is that the people he is running against, particularly the front runners, Bruning, Foley and Ricketts have a long standing record of public, community and business service. They are also very well known to the voters, Mr. Slone is not well known to the voters. It’s difficult to manufacture support and standing overnight. It is generally a long process. It is the rare candidate that can come out of nowhere and win an election.

KVNO: How about State Senator Tom Carlson?

Landow: I think he will fare badly. He won’t be in the hunt. There is just too strong of a field, it is just that simple.  He won’t be able to compete financially, his name I.D. is very weak he has not run statewide. He is well known in his legislative district but there are 49 legislative districts in Nebraska. On the other hand he may be positioning himself for next time.

KVNO: Are we looking at a copy of this vote in November? What I mean that is, whoever wins the primary, wins the election in November?

Landow: It’s always a question here in Nebraska because republican voter registration so heavily outweighs democratic registration. It’s clear that the republican will have the edge and will be the front runner.

KVNO: How about education, do you think candidates differ on the possibility of charter schools in Nebraska?

Landow: Charter schools are very tough questions because they are fraught with political danger on all fronts. Both for Democrats and for Republicans, but I think in the end the candidates will try to not to make it an issue.

KVNO: Is there a clear leader in the polls?

Landow: The clear leader seems to be Bruning and Ricketts. Bruning I believe is leading most polls, Ricketts is a strong second and Foley is a weak third. But you never know how this thing will shake out because there are still several weeks left until the primary and millions of dollars yet to be spent.  The impact of the upcoming television and radio ads will tell the tale. It’s a competition and it’s a fierce competition and it’s a zero sum game. Only one person is going to win. All the rest are going to lose and you are fighting tooth and nail to be that winner. So you develop a, shall we say, strong dislike for your opponents because you have to that is what competition is all about.

KVNO: As of yet the race hasn’t gone negatively, when will that change?

Landow: It isn’t a question of whether it will go negatively. I think it is a question of when. So I think shortly, very soon. It will be expensive and ugly but negative campaigns work. There is a lot of evidence that negative campaigns move voters. In this case Bruning and Ricketts will take after each other and they will do it soon.

KVNO: Dr. Paul Landow I do appreciate the time and open dialogue.

Landow: Nice being with you, thanks a lot, see you soon.


Breakdown of 2014 Republican Candidates for Nebraska Governor

Pete Ricketts – 2006 Senate nominee and co-owner of the Chicago Cubs
His campaign slogan is “Bald and Bold”
Mike Foley currently serves as the State Auditor of Nebraska
Served on the Appropriations Committee at the Nebraska Legislature.
No Nebraska Governor has ever previously served as state auditor.
Beau McCoy has served on the Nebraska State Legislature, representing District 39 since 2009.
Jon Bruning – Current Attorney General of Nebraska, served on the Nebraska Legislature from 1996 until 2002
Bryan Slone – Omaha tax attorney also former official for the Reagan administration in the 1980s
Tom Carlson – served on the Nebraska State Legislature, representing District 38 since January 2007

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