Three Candidates Running in Nebraska's Third Congressional District

Sept. 11, 2020, 10:13 a.m. ·

U.S. Capitol (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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Three candidates are on the ballot in Nebraska’s Third Congressional District: Representative Adrian Smith, the Republican incumbent, Mark Elworth Jr., the Democratic candidate, and Dustin Hobbs, the Libertarian. Here’s a look at what they’re saying to voters.

Nebraska’s Third Congressional District is huge, comprising 75 of the state’s 93 counties. Since 2006, it’s been represented by Adrian Smith of Gering, who’s now running for his eighth term. Smith was asked what he’s telling voters about why they should reelect him.

“Well I appreciate the opportunity to serve, number one. And that we’ve worked hard in the past few years to do what we can to get the federal government out of the way. I think the most common request I get from Nebraska constituents is for the federal government to get out of the way,” Smith said.

When it comes to issues, Smith opposes what he says are attempts to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, and also the Affordable Care Act, which he says has simply redistributed health care costs without reforming the system. At the same time, he touts some actions the federal government has taken to benefit the largely agricultural Third District, such as the recently approved U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, or USMCA.

“Trade is important to agriculture. Agriculture is important to U.S. trade. And the fact that we got USMCA done – I was glad to be a very instrumental part of that, being on the Ways and Means Committee, especially representing agriculture,” he said.

Democratic candidate Mark Elworth Jr. also mentions agriculture as part of the main reason he’s running.

“I’m running because I want to let our farmers grow cannabis without regulations and unneeded restrictions,” Elworth said.

Although he will appear on the ballot as a Democrat, Elworth said he wanted to switch and run as a candidate of the Legal Marijuana Now party. However, he said, the pandemic prevented collecting enough signatures to put that party on the ballot. He also said he has received no support from the Democratic Party. Elworth, who runs a lawn service, also lives in Omaha, which is not a part of the Third District. However, the Constitution does not require candidates to live in the district they want to represent.

Elworth said he wants to make it possible for ranchers to package and sell their own meat without having to go through big packing houses, which pay them low prices.

“It would be great, ‘cause we’re from Nebraska, if the little guys could package their own meat. And then like, put like their origin – like ‘Hey, this came from this ranch. Think of how much money that meat would be worth,” he said.

The third candidate in the race is Libertarian Dustin Hobbs, a machinist from Grand Island. Hobbs says he’s running because he thinks the district needs new representation.

“It seems like everybody that I talk to, no matter if they’re a Republican or a Democrat, or a Libertarian or an independent – nonpartisan – it seems like whenever you bring up Congressman Smith, it seems like the general consensus tends to be that he doesn’t really do a whole lot of anything, and it’s time for a change,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs favors a salary cap on all public servants, not just politicians.

“I think that any public servant should have their salaries capped at whatever the median household income is for the previous fiscal year,” he said. That would reduce congressional pay, currently $174,000 a year, closer to $53,000-$55,000, he said.

Hobbs also said he’s a “Second Amendment absolutist.”

“All gun laws are an infringement. Period. Full stop,” he said.

Smith said he enjoys support from pro-gun organizations like the National Rifle Association, which has given him close to $20,000 over the years, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Elworth voices a complaint similar to Hobbs’ about Smith’s long time in office.

“He is a super-nice guy. But …I think he’s lost like, you know his connection with the people,” he said.

Smith brushes aside such criticism.

“There will always be critics, but being able to travel the district, the 75 counties that I always get to, and meeting people where they are, it’s important. Now, with the pandemic I’ve been switching to online meetings – virtual meetings. I am anxious to get back to the face-to-face meetings across the district. I think that’s not just important but it’s preferable in my case to be able to meet people where they are. I’ve done that a lot. I will continue to do that, and that’s how I get those ideas to take back to Washington,” he said.

In his effort to get back to Washington, Smith reports collecting just over $1 million in campaign contributions this election cycle, and spending just under $500,000 on everything from printing and mailing to campaign consultants and staff. By contrast, Elworth reports having collected $108 in campaign contributions, with no expenditures. Hobbs does not report any contributions or spending.