Blood stresses planning, pragmatism in run for governor

Oct. 5, 2022, 5 a.m. ·

Carol Blood stands near some native heliopsis in her Bellevue backyard (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Carol Blood stands near some native heliopsis in her Bellevue backyard (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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State Senator Carol Blood is this year’s Democratic candidate for governor of Nebraska. Blood styles herself a pragmatic planner, with an idiosyncratic streak.

In Carol Blood’s suburban Bellevue neighborhood on a sunny fall afternoon, neighbors are mowing their lawns. But Blood’s yard isn’t grass – it’s made up of native plants and woodchips, with a sign designating it a “Monarch Waystation.” She said the family decided to create a different front yard because they didn’t want to mow anymore, and also, because pollinators like bees and Monarch butterflies were disappearing.

“We’ve got milkweed and we’ve got native plants. And the milkweed we have is only native milkweed. The only thing that’s not native in this yard are the bushes at the end of the driveway, and those get dug out next year,” Blood said.

Of course next year, she hopes to be governor. Bloood, a 61-year-old business consultant, is midway through her second term in the Legislature. She previously served eight years on the Bellevue City Council. In an interview in her shady back yard, surrounded by more native plants, she talked about her campaign.

“The things that I’m running on are infrastructure, and that I believe that everybody has the right to feel well and be safe, prosperity for all, and education,” she said.

On infrastructure, she said the state should use bonds to speed up road construction and save money. Blood also said there’s a big need for better mental health services in Nebraska. She said she has a record of addressing this problem, pointing to legislation she sponsored creating an interstate compact for psychologists, as an example of an approach to addressing the problem.

“So say you’re a psychologist and you live in Kansas, but you see that there is a shortage of mental health professionals across the border in Nebraska. If those states belong to the compact, that person, keeping their home license, can automatically practice in Nebraska,” she said.

Blood said interstate compacts like that are also important help for spouses of military personnel transferred to Offutt Air Force Base, an important part of her Bellevue constituency.

On public safety, Blood applauded the Legislature for boosting funding for the Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island this year. But she criticized the fact that it took so long for people to get in. And she said that is part of a larger problem of making budget decisions without an eye toward the big picture -- something she said she would change.

“We’re going to do a strategic plan. We’re going to go to every community that we can and we’re going to say ‘What’s important to your area? Is it bridges? Is it roads? Is it more law enforcement? Is it mental health? Is it health care? What's important to your area? And then, after we travel all over Nebraska, we’ll take those items back to Lincoln,” she said, adding that the process would inform her budget priorities.

Regarding education, Blood said the state could reverse the brain drain by offering high school seniors free community college.

“They can get a six-month certification, a one-year degree, a two-year degree in ag, in the trades, in health care. And then leave school with no debt and walk into a job that pays a living wage, that has benefits, that has retirement, especially when we’re talking about the trades and healthcare, and hopefully stay in Nebraska,” she said.

Blood said the program could be financed through partnerships with private companies that are desperate for a trained workforce.

As Blood continued talking in her backyard about the need to lift up the middle class, she suddenly broke off.

“Hello Mr. Squirrel!. Hello! How are you? You already ate breakfast. There’s no more,” she said, addressing the creature.

“I take after my dad – I always talk to animals,” she said, laughing.

It’s that apparent seamlessness between Blood’s political and personal sides that appeals to her colleague and fellow Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, state Sen. Jen Day.

“Who she is as a person is exactly who she is as a legislator. She hasn’t gotten into politics for her own accolades or anything like that. She genuinely cares about people,” Day said.

On the other hand, Sen. Tom Brewer, a Republican, objected both to Blood’s politics and her style in hearings of the Government Committee, which he chairs.

“I don’t like the way she interrogates people that come in to testify. I think it is an opportunity to gain more knowledge of a bill or an issue, and that people come in from alll over the state and give a lot to be there, of their time and their resources. And I just think that whether you like their testimony or not, our job is to make that experience for them positive and not be in an adversarial, cross-examining role,” Brewer said.

Blood has said she finds it hard to stay silent when people she agrees or disagrees with raise questions in her mind.

Asked about her differences with her Republican opponent for governor, Jim Pillen, Blood doesn’t miss a beat.

“Well, I’ll debate, that’s the first one,” she said.

Pillen has refused debates, calling them “political theater.”

Blood also contrasts her do-it-yourself campaign style with Pillen’s well-funded effort. She spent just a little over $100,000 in the primary against a little-know opponent, winning 90% of the vote, while Pillen spent nearly $8 million, narrowly defeating two well-funded rivals.

Blood said it’s a familiar pattern for her campaigns.

“Always outspent – I’m never outworked,” she said.

Nebraska voters will have their say Nov. 8 on whether that work pays off for Blood

To read about Blood's republican challenger, Jim Pillen, click here.