Property taxes, rural representation key issues for three new senators
Three new Northeast Nebraskans are heading to the Unicameral for the next legislative session as newly elected state senators: Timothy Gragert representing District 40, Mike Moser for District 22 and Ben Hansen for District 16.
Gragert, who is a Creighton resident, edged out Keith Kube of Crofton to represent District 40 with 51.6 percent of the vote. The district includes Knox, Boyd, Cedar, Dixon, Holt and Rock counties.
“It was a close race — had me on the edge of my chair all night,” said Gragert, who said he didn’t know the final results until about 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Gragert said his reputation as a hard worker and veteran helped him pull ahead in his native area of Knox County. He and his family also spent a lot of time knocking on doors and talking to voters, many of whom said property tax relief was the biggest issue.
“We’re going to somehow get that accomplished; that’s the number one issue,” he said.
Gragert said he will work hard to represent his constituents and hopes to work with other senators to make progress on property tax relief and other key issues. Other key points in his campaign included water quality, representing rural schools and rural technology.
“I hope to work together with all the other senators in moving forward on what’s best for the state,” he said. “I said all along, we’re going to have to work together if we’re going to get anything done. My main thing I’ve been saying is I want to do the right thing for the right reasons.”
Kube said he appreciated the support he received from veterans, farmers and ranchers. He said it was a good race and he has other plans now that it’s over.
“The Lord doesn’t want me in the Legislature. I’ll write another book or go on the speaking circuit,” he said. “I appreciate all the support I was given and it was a great experience.”
The District 22 race was less of a nail-biter as Moser, a former mayor of Columbus, won by a significant margin of 64.3 percent of the vote over opponent Doug Oertwich of Pilger.
The district includes Platte County, most of Stanton County and part of Colfax County. Columbus represents more than half the district’s population.
Moser said it was heartening to win with 7,850 votes.
“I’m grateful for the support of the voters; we worked really hard,” he said. “Happy to see our hard work rewarded with a solid win.”
The biggest issue for constituents in Moser’s district is also property taxes, which he said he would address by analyzing the state budget.
“We’re going to have to look at all the parts of the budget to see where our money’s maybe saved, possibly look for efficiencies where we can find them,” he said.
Moser said his 12 years of serving as the mayor of Columbus would serve him well as he transitions into his new role as senator because he’s already experienced with the political sphere.
“I think the political world has a lot of its own workings,” he said. “A lot of the processes aren’t going to be shockingly new.”
Oertwich said he would continue to be involved in politics in his community, where he serves on four local boards.
“I will stay in the community and we’ll continue forward,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in four years.”
Running the campaign was a good experience for Oertwich, and he said he appreciates the support he received and all the new connections he made.
“This process made me a better person,” he said. “To meet that many wonderful people and (receive) the support and phone calls, it’s been truly wonderful.”
In District 16, Hansen of Blair defeated Democrat Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons with 61.6 percent of the vote. Hansen describes himself as a constitutional conservative who wants to bring economic growth to Nebraska by lessening government regulations.
The district is made up of Burt, Cuming and Washington counties.
In his campaign, Hansen said he would prioritize the needs of rural Nebraskans by addressing property taxes, education funding, rural healthcare and the state economy.
Hassebrook had considerable name recognition going into the race because for many years was associated with the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons. He also is a past member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.