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Two Democrats are hoping to win their party's nomination in the governor's race, while a Libertarian has already secured his party's nomination. Nebraska Public Media News asked each candidate what their top priority would be if elected to the seat for four years.
Occupation: Business consultant
State Sen. Blood launched her campaign last September. The last time a Democrat won a gubernatorial election was in 1995. But the Bellevue area representative is optimistic because she says Nebraska needs a vision.
"We need to bring strategic planning to Nebraska because a state without a strategic plan is just writing checks," she said.
She uses the Perkins County Canal as an example. The Legislature recently appropriated $53.5 million toward the project, which is expected to cost more than half a billion dollars. Blood objects to Gov. Ricketts labeling Colorado as Nebraska's enemy because the neighboring state is planning ahead, she said.
"Perhaps Nebraska could learn something from that," Blood said.
The strategic planning will involve setting yearly goals for state offices and getting input from all of those agencies at the same time. For Blood, she sees Nebraska’s executive branch as operating to protect itself. In her eyes, the executive branch has been complicit in many of the issues facing the state.
"Having a strategic plan is going to make sure that the buck stops at the executive branch," Blood said. "It's going to bring everybody into the picture to make sure that we all work on the success of Nebraska, and it's going to give our taxpayers a stronger voice."
Occupation: Construction contractor
Harris of Linwood will appear on the May ballot as Blood's challenger. Harris, however, has been fairly quiet during this primary process. He’s not appeared in many public campaign events. He said he's running on a few big issues: prison reform and legalizing medical marijuana.
"If I became governor, I would use all my authority I had to bring about massive prison reform for the non-violent criminal," he said.
Harris is a local construction contractor in his small town – which sits between Fremont and Columbus. Similar to failed proposals in the Legislature this session, Harris said Nebraska's Department of Corrections should invest more money in programs to help non-violent criminals return to society.
Harris entered the race after watching Republican front runners Charles Herbster and Jim Pillen run what he calls negative campaigns.
"I think we ought to have a governor that's for the people – not above the people," Harris said. "And, if elected, I would do my best to be that governor. I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I'm a nice enough person that I could get the smartest people to work for me."
And Harris said he’s not unaware. He anticipates Blood will likely win the party’s nomination, but he just felt like the time was right to speak his mind.
Occupation: 5th grade teacher
The winner of Blood and Harris will move on to face the Republican nominee and also Zimmerman. The Libertarian’s pick for governor is running uncontested, so Nebraskans will see him again in November.
Zimmerman, a 5th grade teacher in Omaha Public Schools, said his top priority is education.
"I want to bring Nebraska to the forefront of education in the nation,": he said. "I want to create the model that they will copy to be successful throughout our nation."
The Libertarian said he wants to make sure teachers can teach. He feels those working in public education are doing the best they can with the resources they have, but, in his eyes, it’s time for the state to support its schools more.
Zimmerman is not a new face to Nebraska politics. He previously ran as a lieutenant governor candidate in 2014 and ran for OPS school board in 2012. Like Harris, Zimmerman agrees Nebraska prisons need change.
"If they are incarcerated for a victimless crime or a non-violent crime, they shouldn't be sitting in a box," Zimmerman said. "They should be given an opportunity to rejoin society at a reasonable level."
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