Candidates for Nebraska governor hold first debate


September 2nd, 2014

Omaha, NE – The race to see who will be Nebraska’s 40th Governor took an important step last night at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island. It was the first scheduled debate between republican Pete Ricketts and democrat Chuck Hassebrook.


Hassebrook several times pointed to the fact that he works across the aisle in his responsibilities with the Board of Regents. Ricketts ran unsuccessfully for Nebraska governor in 2006, but said he is more prepared now to lead than he was then.

Both candidates at times dodged several questions about prison reform, taxes and the Affordable Care Act. More than once each candidate had to be reminded by moderator Mike’l Severe to answer the original question. But there were periods where each candidate was sharp and unambiguous. This was the case when the topic turned to issues with education in Nebraska.

“Early childhood is the most critical long-term investment that we can make that will ultimately reduce the costs of public spending,” Hassebrook said. “Every dollar we spend today on preparing kids to start kindergarten ready to succeed, and will save us ten dollars down the road.”

Pete Ricketts before May's GOP debate at UNO. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

Pete Ricketts before May’s GOP debate at UNO. (Photo Courtesy Brandon McDermott)

Hassebrook said if elected he would use current funding to help low-income children and students across the state. He said there is a lack of resources for low-income children, which can contribute to students failing.

“So to pay for that I am going to start by taking and braiding together the funding that is already out there from state and federal programs to support childcare for low-income kids and food assistance to low-income kids,” Hassebrook said. “Braid that together and that gets you to about 80 percent of the cost of providing high quality early childhood education.”

Ricketts agreed there were issues with low-income children in Nebraska. However, he said there were bigger issues with early childhood education.

“One thing to think about is some of the other programs like Head Start, a lot of the benefit there has worn off by third grade,” Ricketts said. “Pre-K through third grade that is the time children are learning to read to help them ‘read to learn,’ thereafter. So, I think we should look at that to see how we might address programs going forward.”

Ricketts went a step further saying he would support charter schools in Nebraska to help low-income children and those less fortunate get a fighting chance.

“I think charter schools offer another chance for us that have certainly demonstrated to have success,” Ricketts said. “Particularly with low-income kids, like in Houston, to help them get the education they deserve so they can be successful going forward in life.”

Ricketts also said he would like to focus more on career and vocational training in Nebraska.

Chuck Hassebrook is on the Nebraska Board of Regents (Photo Courtesy Chuck Hassebrook)

Chuck Hassebrook is on the Nebraska Board of Regents (Photo Courtesy Chuck Hassebrook)

Hassebrook said he wouldn’t support using public funding for private or ‘independent schools.’ On the whole, Hassebrook said there are plenty of ways he would like to improve Nebraska.

“I will take responsibility for protecting public safety by fixing our broken prison system and by making dangerous criminal serve their full sentences,” Hassebrook said. “I will take responsibility to get Nebraskans working together to create a better future for our children and grandchildren, to strengthen our middle class and to create good jobs in every community by strengthening education, supporting renewable energy and by making our state one of the best states in America to start a small business.”

Hassebrook said he wouldn’t engage in a ‘risky change in tax policies that will shift taxes off the rich and onto ordinary Nebraskans.’ Ricketts pointed to lowering taxes for small business owners in Nebraska as a way to help ‘grow Nebraska.’

“What I want to do is to work together with Nebraskans all across the state and the senators in the unicameral. To craft that plan on how we can grow Nebraska. How we can create more and better paying jobs here, how we can keep our kids and grand-kids here. And to be able to create these futures that our families so want and deserve. At the end of the day that is what this is about, to be able to create that opportunity for Nebraskans by growing this state.”

The next Nebraska gubernatorial debate is scheduled for October 2nd at 7pm. The last released polling shows Ricketts ahead by eight points with a four point margin of error.

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