By Brandon McDermott
Omaha, NE – On this weekâ€™s episode of Friday Faculty Focus, KVNOâ€™s Brandon McDermott talks to the University of Nebraska Medical Centerâ€™s Dr. Nancy Waltman. Dr. Waltmanâ€™s research focuses on cancer nursing and on osteoporosis.Read More
By Brandon McDermott
Omaha, NE – The 2016 race for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District turned out to be very contentious between incumbent Congressman Brad Ashford and Ret. Brig. Gen. Don Bacon.Read More
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By Brandon McDermott
The race for Nebraskaâ€™s Legislative District 9 pits Omaha lawyer Larry Roland against incumbent State Senator Sara Howard. Both Howard and Roland made it through the primaries in May, but Howard held a significant advantage in the overall vote count. After profiling Roland yesterday, KVNOâ€™s Brandon McDermott takes a look at Sara Howardâ€™s campaign today.
Months of knocking on doors and talking to constituents by Nebraska State Sen. Sara Howard will finally come to an end on Election Day this Tuesday.
But Howard said after all the work and long hours she put in during her campaign, she is ready for the voting to take place. Howard, 34, just finished her first term as state senator for Nebraska Legislative District 9, a place where she grew up.
â€œBecause I’m such a part of this district, I work very hard to make sure that I do what they tell me to do. When I was elected I sort of had this realization that I just got 37,000 new bosses and how in the world was I going to make sure that they knew that I was working for them? ,â€ Howard said.
When talking about her district, Howard mentioned the names of places where she played and ate ice cream as a kid growing up. She recited the names of the children that she babysat for as an adolescent and the university camp she attended as a teenager. Her mother, Gwen, served as state senator for District 9 from 2005-2012. Sara Howard was voted in, in 2012, becoming the first daughter to replace her mother in the Nebraska unicameral.
â€œMy first year in the legislature one of the things that she sort of pounded into me was that the most important thing you have is your own credibility,â€ Howard said.
Howard said her mother also told her to keep her word when she makes a promise and strongly defend her stance on those issues she cares most about.
â€œIt’s not about politics – it’s not about a D or an R – it’s really very much about whether or not the issues that are important to you are going to be advocated for in the way that you want them to be by that person,â€ Howard said.
Howard said District 9 encompasses a lot of unique people and circumstances and there are many important issues to work on. The district has a 47.3 percent home-ownership rate (Nebraska average is 66 percent) and 12 percent of houses in the district are vacant, more than the state average of nine percent. District 9 also has a higher unemployment rate (8.6 percent) than the state average (5.4 percent).
Prescription drug legislative bill hits close to home
Howard said when she makes a decision on how she plans to vote on specific issues; she always has her constituents in mind. One legislative bill which she said made a difference for everyone in her district was LB 471. Howard introduced LB 471 last session, which closed loopholes in Nebraskaâ€™s prescription drug monitoring program. It was a bill that hit close to home for her. Howardâ€™s sister Carrie passed away in 2009 from a prescription overdose.
â€œWhen that bill passed final reading it was just one of those things where I couldn’t I couldn’t believe that two years of work was over and in about a seven minute stretch,â€ Howard said.
As the votes were coming in, she said she felt a sense of achievement and loss.
â€œYou almost felt like Carrie was in the room like. I can’t bring her back, I would if I could. I could probably help other families not have the experience that my mother and I had,â€ Howard said.
In that moment, Howard said, she was reminded what was truly important.
â€œIt had nothing to do with party â€“ it had nothing to do with politics. It just had to do with recognizing that we have a problem in our state and knowing that we had the power to do something that could impact it,â€ Howard said.
Nebraska Politics ‘is about relationships’
She said she met with thousands of potential voters in her district this spring, summer and on into this fall. She ran into old friends and hopefully, she said, made some new ones.
â€œI have I have a tendency once I get to know my constituents, we really know them. My family, we’re dropping off baby gifts and going to funerals. People are sending us pet updates,â€ Howard said.
Howard said she has learned that politics in Nebraska is about relationships. Relating to constituents even when you disagree, and youâ€™re bound to disagree about something, she said. From â€œwho should mow the ditches on the Interstate?â€ to whether or not the death penalty should exist, she said, youâ€™ll never agree with someone on everything.
â€œWhen people feel like they know you and they feel like they can trust you, you can disagree respectfully. Which is maybe not what we see on the federal level but it’s something that I prefer to see in my own district,â€ Howard said.
Howard and Larry Roland made it through primaries in May, but Howard held a much larger vote advantage. Election Day is Tuesday and hours for voting in Douglas County are 8 am. to 8 p.m.
To hear yesterdayâ€™s profile of Sara Howardâ€™s opponent, Larry Roland: Click here
By Melissa Dundis
â€œYouâ€™re going to fall in love for La Boheme, for sure. I did, and I watched it the first time and I was crying and fell in love with the opera saying, â€œOh my God, this is so beautifulâ€.-Cleyton Pulzi
By Brandon McDermott
In the Omaha metro, there are several hotly contested races for seats at the Nebraska Unicameral that will be decided on next Tuesday during the General Election. Legislative District 9, in east central Omaha, pits incumbent Sara Howard against her challenger, Larry Roland. Today, KVNOâ€™s Brandon McDermott has a profile of Larry Roland.
Challenger Larry Roland hopes to unseat Sara Howard in Nebraska legislative district 9.
Sara Howard has represented District 9 in Omaha for four years. Roland said he had nothing but respect for Sen. Sara Howard, but that the two of them are as different politically as you can get.
â€œThere is no tax or social program that Miss Howard would be opposed to at least, considering, if not expanding, in the state of Nebraska. I am the complete opposite, I am a registered Republican and very fiscally conservative.â€
Roland, 42, is a native of Chicago but has lived in Omaha for the past 10 years. He worked in both radio and television before becoming a lawyer. Roland said heâ€™s knocked on hundreds of doors and has spoken a lot of people in District 9.
â€œThe people that I talk to, both sides – we knocked on all kinds of doors Republican, doors Democratic doors and independent doors – they still love their neighbor, their block, the little part of Omaha or the ninth (legislative district) that they call home.â€
Nebraska Legislative District 9 encompasses 72nd and Dodge south to Grover St. and east to Interstate 480. This includes all of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and about half of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Roland said because he considers himself a fiscal conservative he sees â€˜needless spendingâ€™ as a terrible habit.
â€œSo there’s more that needs to get done, but at what expense? At some point you have to turn that spigot off and say we just can’t keep going back to well on more taxes. That’s where Miss Howard and I most differentiate – is the expenditures that have to go into running this great state.â€
Roland notes that Nebraskaâ€™s budget has more than doubled since the year 2000. He claims the state has become addicted to over spending.
â€œI think we’re already at the ceiling, in fact, I think we’re past the ceiling. We’ve got to find ways to reduce taxes. There are again there’s good people in the state who through the organizations that they advocate for believe that there’s billions more that we can spend.â€
Legislative District 9 is a district where there are people living on both extremes of the economic spectrum. The district is also highly educated with 4-in-10 people possessing at least a bachelorâ€™s degree. That is a significantly higher percentage than the Nebraska average of 29 percent. But nearly 22 percent of the citizens in this district are living at or below the poverty level (Nebraska average is 12.9 percent), including 32 percent of children under the age of five.
â€œThe number of renters versus homeowners the number of insured versus not insured, those that live at or below the poverty level and then at or below double the poverty level. I mean eye-opening, truly eye opening. When I hear Dundee when people hear Dundee they think there’s some affluence there, some big houses there and while those are there, there’s more people who don’t have those kinds of things.â€
If elected, Roland said his primary focus would be on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. He said it is â€œhard to put your mind aroundâ€ the size of the largest agency in the state of Nebraska. The biggest problem, Roland said, is â€œthere are too many moving pieces and not a lot of people have a ton of working knowledge on.â€
Before being combined, health and human services were apart of four separate bureaus: aging, health, public institutions and social services. But they were merged by the Unicameral into three departments in 1997, then to just one department in 2007, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.Â The size of the agency isnâ€™t the only issue, Roland said. More than 100 DHHS audits over the past 15 years have found instances of mishandling or negligence.
â€œI used to be able to think that, â€˜Well we sit down in a room, you look at someÂ pieces of paper, you figure out where you can make some cost savings, and voila! Your problem is fixed!â€™ That is not the case. If we are interested in the most efficient Department of Health and Human Services that protects the disadvantaged, the reason why it was created, and does not exploit power that it presents in monitoring and licensing specific professionals in the state – that’s going to take a lot of work.â€
Another contentious issue where the incumbent State Sen. Howard and her challenger differ is over the death penalty. Last session, the death penalty was repealed by the Unicameral. Howard was one of the majority of state senators that voted to override Governor Pete Ricketts’ veto. However, Roland has said he supports the death penalty for heinous crimes.
Challenger Larry Roland knows that he has an uphill battle on his hands in trying to unseat Sara Howard. In the primary election held last May, Sen. Howard received 3,491 votes while Roland captured just 874 votes for a seat in the officially non-partisan Nebraska Unicameral.
Tune in tomorrow for a look at the other candidate for the Nebraska Unicameral 9th district: Sen. Sara Howard.