Five Gubernatorial Candidates Make Their Final Pitches Before Primaries

May 6, 2022, 5 a.m. ·

Republican Candidate Charles Herbster Addresses the Nebraska Bankers Association
Republican candidate Charles Herbster speaks at the Nebraska Bankers Association's annual convention on Thursday. (Photo by Will Bauer, Nebraska Public Media News)

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For likely the final time ahead of next Tuesday’s primaries, five candidates for governor publicly pitched themselves for the state’s highest office on Thursday.

The candidates did so in LaVista at the Nebraska Bankers Association Annual Convention. Organizers asked the four Republicans and one Democrat to answer questions about what they’ve learned on the campaign trail and why they should be the next governor.

The field of five was supposed to be six. One of the frontrunners, Jim Pillen, was scheduled to speak virtually, but, because of technical difficulties, Pillen was unable to address the bankers.

Republican Breland Ridenour, an information technology manager from Elkhorn, spent much of his time talking about the importance of rural broadband. He said critical infrastructure, like broadband, is holding Nebraska back.

He couched himself as a no-nonsense conservative, who’s not interested in wasteful spending. He backed that up with his attire – a suit but no tie.

"A tie in itself serves no purpose, but to be a fashion statement," Ridenour said. "And fashion statements are good. But when you're the government, we're not here to make fashion statements. I'm not here to make fashion statements. I'm here to be efficient. I'm here to do what needs to be done and get out of the way."

Another frontrunner Charles Herbster, the agri-businessman from Falls City, started his speech like many others – reminding the crowd he has the support of both former President Donald Trump and also South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.

Like many candidates, he talked about his personal ties to banking. He also joked he’s borrowed more money than any bankers in the room would be comfortable loaning.

Herbster said he’s learned one common thread of what Nebraskans want in a governor: They just want a chief executive who they have access to. They want a seat at the table, he said. If elected, Herbster said he would provide that.

"I assure you, you will have a seat at the table with me as the governor of the state of Nebraska," he told the crowd of bankers. "I promise you that."

Herbster continued talking over his allotted 10 minutes, repeating many of his campaign's talking points, including his favorite "America has lost its moral compass."

In strong contrast to Herbster, State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, the lone Democrat at Thursday’s event, continued to pitch herself as a planner. As an example, Blood pointed to the state’s workforce shortage, which, she said, has been a long problem in the making.

"We've known baby boomers are going to be aging out for 20 years," she said. "But as usual, Nebraska didn't plan. We reacted."

In her eyes, part of the solution is bipartisan policy that allows immigrants a better pathway to citizenship. From there, those immigrants will then get jobs in needed professions like hospitality or meatpacking.

Blood, a former Bellevue city councilwoman, also couched herself as someone who truly understands all levels of government. She left the bankers with a final thought.

"If you're unhappy, I have one question for you today: Why do you keep voting the same way and expect things to change?" she asked. "Maybe, just maybe, it's time for new blood in Nebraska."

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who represents northwest Omaha, spent much of his 10 minutes discussing fiscal policy. He quickly touted his experience on the Banking, the Revenue and the Commerce and Insurance committees at the state legislature. And like many of his television advertisements, Lindstrom mentioned the Legislature’s recent tax cuts.

"Of course, we did the biggest tax cut, but we're not done with that," he said. "We're not done with what we've done because we're in a competitive situation. And really, if I had to sum up why I'm running and why I’m in this race is to make Nebraska competitive."

Lindstrom went on to say one of his priorities as governor will be working with the legislature to lower income tax requirements. He said that will be a part of the state’s solution for combating brain drain – or young people leaving the state.

"Part of doing business is keep your clients and customers happy first, and (that's) no different than as governor of the state of Nebraska," Lindstrom said.

The final speaker on Thursday was Theresa Thibodeau, a former state senator and small business owner from Omaha.

Thibodeau spent much of her time discussing two issues that she’s long discussed in her campaign: property taxes and funding public schools. Thibodeau is not alone in prioritizing property taxes. In terms of education, Thibodeau would like to see the state legislature fund schooling equally per child. As of now, the state aids only 84 of its 244 districts.

Beyond that, Thibodeau told the Nebraska Bankers Association she’s the only candidate running who realizes the race isn’t about her.

"It's not about any one person," she said. "This election is about the citizens of our great state, and how we can empower you to build your businesses to succeed, and that we can leave an even better life to our next generation."

Nebraska's primaries are just four days away. Ballots open Tuesday morning.