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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

November 12, 2018

Omaha World Herald. November 7, 2018

Let’s bridge the urban-rural divide and find cooperative solutions to Nebraska’a challenges

Republicans have made voter registration gains in Nebraska’s rural counties while Democrats have achieved gains in Omaha and Lincoln, The World-Herald reported last week. This development raises concern that Nebraska may see an increase in rural-urban tensions in the future, given the disdain the two parties often display toward each other.

Nebraskans need to make sure this partisan divide doesn’t encourage a wider urban-rural divide in the state.

The two political parties are increasingly polarized in their ideological stances, and it’s common to see partisans depict the opposing party as a dangerous threat to the country. Lowering the political temperature and bridging the partisan divide through constructive agreement has become increasingly difficult.

It’s fully legitimate for politically interested people to hold fast to their principles and values, but Nebraskans, urban and rural, should also recognize the crucial need to work together. Otherwise, the state’s efforts to address its challenges could run aground.

A central example is an overhaul of tax policy to address the public’s loud demands for property tax relief. Another example: the distribution of state aid to K-12 education. Those are complex, difficult issues, and they can’t be addressed in a serious way unless Nebraskans, urban and rural, are willing to work together on the needed compromises.

The state needs leaders — in government and the business and nonprofit communities — who promote statewide solidarity and cooperative solutions.

The University of Nebraska has a vital role in promoting connections between urban and rural residents. NU makes impressive contributions in that regard through its programs on agriculture, natural resources science, training in the health care professions, entrepreneurship and the Rural Futures Institute.

The business community, including chambers of commerce, can play an important role. It’s been encouraging in the past, for example, to see Omaha business leaders visit western Nebraska, and vice versa, as part of such relationship-building.

How the Nebraska Legislature addresses urban-rural issues will be especially consequential. The 2020 Census numbers will likely mean an increase in urban seats in the Legislature and a decrease in rural ones.

Urban-rural frictions on some issues are inevitable as lawmakers advocate for their districts’ interests. But state senators who stoke resentment across urban-rural lines undercut the state’s ability to get things done. Lawmakers who encourage mutual respect and cooperative solutions serve the best interests of their district and the state as a whole.

There’s a lesson in that for all Nebraskans. The challenges on issues such as taxes and school aid are difficult enough without letting urban-rural frictions get in the way of finding solutions. We need to move forward together.

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Kearney Hub. November 8, 2018

Stampede of voters is fantastic

A few takeaways from Tuesday’s election while we wonder what was in the water that prompted so many Nebraskans to cast votes. Turnout in Buffalo County was almost 55 percent — a very good showing compared to recent elections when participation barely exceeded 30 percent.

Buffalo County’s turnout on Tuesday was commendable, but voters showed up at the polls in exceptional numbers in many other locales. A total of 38 counties had 60-percent to 69-percent turnout, while six counties eclipsed 70 percent. They were: Arthur, Garden, Harlan, Merrick, Morrill and McPherson counties.

The state’s best turnout was McPherson County’s 78 percent. That’s phenomenal.

Trump backers

Nebraska voters were strong supporters of candidate Donald Trump in 2016, and on Tuesday in what was billed as a referendum on President Trump’s performance in his first two years in the White House, Nebraskans again supported him — or at least the Republican slate of candidates who aligned themselves with the president.

One of those Trump beneficiaries, Gov. Pete Ricketts, talked tough on immigration in the past two weeks and said he is poised to send more National Guard members to the Mexico border if called upon to head off illegal entry from the caravan of 7,000 Central American refugees slowly marching its way toward the United States.

Nebraskans rewarded Ricketts with nearly 60 percent of the votes vs. Democrat challenger Bob Krist’s 40 percent. Similarly, U.S. Senate incumbent Deb Fischer got 58 percent vs. Democrat Jane Raybould’s 38 percent. U.S. House incumbent Adrian Smith landed almost 77 percent of the votes cast in his 75-county 3rd District vs. Democrat challenger Paul Theobald’s 23 percent.

Auditor apologizes

Voters gave incumbent State Auditor Charlie Janssen another four years in spite of news reports he wasn’t in his office the balance of many workdays. Instead, he spent multiple long three-hour lunch breaks sipping beer in a sports bar south of the State Capitol.

Wisely, Janssen admitted the news reports about his behavior were accurate. He apologized and promised to try harder to be a good state auditor. Janssen did the right thing by admitting the mistake and saying he was sorry. Too bad other politicians find it so difficult to say “I’m sorry and won’t do it again.”

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Lincoln Journal Star. November 7, 2018

With election over, it’s time to move on, work together

Breathe a sigh of relief, Nebraska - we survived the 2018 election.

Now, let’s learn from it and become better on account of what we all just endured.

To be frank, this campaign hasn’t necessarily brought out our better angels. A flood of negative ads, some emanating from unknown sources, sought to denigrate viewpoints and people on the other side of the topic. Half-truths and claims that required squinting to find an ounce of accuracy abounded.

And for what? The pursuit of victory above all else?

Moving forward from Tuesday, we must bury the hatchet and seek common ground to shape and advance our political dialogue and policy. Truth, compassion and community are needed to lead the way, rather than the win-at-all-costs mentality and scorched-earth tactics that led up to the vote.

You’ll probably notice we identified neither the victor nor the vanquished, as the editorial page was finalized before all the returns had been counted. But that further underscores the point of this call to unity - which remains salient, no matter which party or candidates are in power.

In fact, those who are elected, whether to a county board or Congress, take upon themselves the sacred duty to represent all their constituents. Not just the ones who voted for them or think like them - we’re talking the whole lot.

Perhaps this all seems a bit idealistic. After all, a win is a win, whether it’s by one vote or 100,000 votes, and all elections have consequences. But those ramifications don’t have to include highlighting or capitalizing upon the divides, nor should gloating occur at the expense of those who backed an unsuccessful campaign.

No compelling reason exists as to why we can’t be better as a result of this election. Rather than viewing it solely through a lens of wins and losses and us vs. them, let us offer a suggestion that may sound foreign: Step back, and be collegial.

If you’re a politically active person, no doubt you’ll have already been inundated by now with post-election fundraising emails for some candidate or cause. Just press pause.

The issues won’t have gone anywhere in the interim. But, after such a contentious and momentous midterm election, taking a second to unwind and chill out won’t hurt anyone. Rather, a quick break is important to recalibrate ourselves to what matters most - policy and people, not politics.

When the votes are counted and winners determined, we hope an ability to work together - to give a little bit to get a piece of something instead of the entirety of nothing - is the lasting legacy of this election, not the philosophical divides campaigns sought to exploit.

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McCook Daily Gazette. November 7, 2018

Despite personal preferences, all Americans won

Despite the scoreboard, elections are not a zero-sum game.

Yes, the Democrats took control of the House by taking away seats from the Republicans, and the Republicans maintained control of the Senate by taking away a couple of seats from the Democrats.

A Republican governor won re-election and a U.S. Senator held on to her seat, but Nebraska voters embraced, by a narrow margin, one of the major points of Obamacare, Initiative 427, expansion of Medicaid.

A female Democrat was elected governor of Kansas, which also elected a gay Native American woman to Congress.

Two-thirds of the states have now legalized some sort of marijuana, the latest medical marijuana in Utah and Missouri and recreational in Michigan, but North Dakota rejected the recreational use of pot.

A Furnas County sheriff was defeated by a write-in candidate, but two incumbent McCook City Council members were re-elected, and a young local businessman won a seat vacated by an incumbent who chose not to run again.

There are certainly many other local, state and national races of note, and we’re still sorting out the deluge of results and implications.

But the most important results are already apparent — 56 percent of eligible Nebraska voters turned out to make their choices, 54 percent voted in Red Willow County and other area counties had similar results.

It’s a shame the numbers aren’t closer to 100 percent, but they’re still far above numbers for other recent elections.

Americans should be celebrating a process that forces government to address their concerns, rather than mourning defeat of their favorite candidate or issue. And, they should channel the energy that propelled them to the voting booth into staying involved in the political process, and not just for the next election.

Implementation of Medicaid expansion in Nebraska is an example of an issue that bears watching, and making voices heard, as it works its way through the Legislature to the governor’s desk.

Responsibility for the changes that result from that vote, as well as other issues and candidates, fall on all of us in the coming years.

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