District 7 Candidates Weigh-in


May 9th, 2016

electionThere are three candidates running for Nebraska Legislative District 7. The incumbent, Republican Nicole Fox, faces two Democrats in the primary.

Nicole Fox was appointed by Governor Pete Ricketts to represent District 7 voters when Jeremy Nordquist left the position in 2015 to work for Congressman Brad Ashford. Outside of the political realm, Fox is a medical nutrition therapist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“As a dietician, I’ve been very involved in several professional organizations,” Fox said. “The ones I’ve been most active in are the Nebraska Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and nationally the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What got me interested in the policy realm is my work with them. I’ve worked at both the State and Federal levels to advocate for food nutrition and health related policy.”

 Fox said what separates her from the two Democrats in the race, Tony Vargas and former State Senator John Synowiecki, is her conservative fiscal policy aimed at helping alleviate tax burdens on small businesses. Fox also touted her medical background as a distinguishing characteristic.

“I know that a lot of people are concerned about the healthcare. It’s not just about health insurance; it’s also the cost of healthcare,” Fox said. “I think we need to work on what can we do to reduce healthcare costs and make those people that are working hard be able to use their money and spend it on the things they need. Whether it’s healthcare or housing and things like that, education for their children, my big thing is trying to maximize peoples’ paychecks.”

All three candidates said education is a primary component of their campaigns. Fox said there needs to be greater emphasis on trade schools. She said not every student is meant to go to college.

“Other things I think are important are school choice, because I think we need to realize not all kids learn the same and thrive in different type of learning environments,” Fox said. “So whether it’s homeschooling or public schools or private schools, I think we need to do things that facilitate school choice.”

Like Fox, John Synowiecki was also appointed to serve in the Legislature. Synowiecki was appointed by Governor Mike Johanns in 2001. Synowiecki said his work as a probation officer in South Omaha earned him the respect of residents, and directly contributed to his time in office.

“Lot of individuals in  the community recommended that I put in for the vacancy for the District 7 office,” Synowiecki said. “I think it was because of my community service—Parish Council President, sports clubs president, and a lot of community service. A lot of individuals in the community did recommend that I apply for the appointment, and we successfully ran two races to continue that representation for District 7.”

 Synowiecki said his time in office and the experience he gained there separate him from his competitors.

“We got things done in the Nebraska Legislature. I was fortunate to have been elected by my colleagues as a chairman of a committee, the Retirement Committee,” Synowiecki said. “At that time, I was the only Democrat in the Nebraska Legislature that was chairman of a committee for the last two years, which I think shows we accumulated broad based support from across the body—from more conservative individuals and more liberal individuals. To have been able to have ascended to a committee chairmanship the last two years, I think, speaks to my moderate position on a lot of issues and my support for working class individuals.”

 On the issue of education, Synowiecki—who has been endorsed by the Nebraska State Education Association—said there needs to be a bigger emphasis on the effects of poverty on academic achievement.

“Each of the elementary schools in District 7 has a free or reduced lunch rate which exceeds 90 percent. I think those teachers in those classrooms and those environments are in demonstrated need of more tools and resources,” Synowiecki said. “They’re in need of smaller class sizes, more of a focus on early education, to overcome these poverty barriers.”

 Tony Vargas is the third candidate vying to represent District 7. He’s from New York City, where he was named “Most Outstanding Teacher of the Year” in 2008. He is currently a member of the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education. He said while he may not be from South Omaha, he identifies with the community.

“My parents were immigrants from Peru. I think that south Omaha is a very [strong] immigrant community from way, way back–the Czechs, the Italians to now—Latino, Mexican-American Immigrants, Sudanese immigrants,” Vargas said, “and being a first generation college graduate in this country, it’s part of me that I identify with and want to make sure I keep in mind when I think about bills and laws that are going to impact the lives of our working families.”

 Vargas said he doesn’t like to spend time focusing on what separates him from his competitors. He said divisive politics has played a part in District 7’s lackluster voter turnout.

“When more people have a voice and are informed on issues and can have a direct line to elected officials, that’s good for our community,” Vargas said. “When less people know who their elected officials are, can identify who they are and feel comfortable enough to talk to them, call them, message them…that’s not good. My campaign is about reaching more people, reaching more voters, reaching more people in the community so they feel a direct line to their voice being heard.”

 Vargas said when it comes to education, law makers need to take a more comprehensive approach to student welfare. He said the Legislature should take into account opinions from everyone involved in education–from the teachers and paraprofessionals working in the classroom, to the parents and community based organizations working to help students outside of school.

“When we are able to improve communication and improve lines of support to those individuals, while also thinking about how to better be effective in how we fund education, we’re going to have a better education system,” Vargas said.

The top two candidates in Tuesday’s primary will move on. Polls open at 8am

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