LINCOLN — Gubernatorial candidate Chuck Hassebrook served up plenty of red meat Saturday at a gathering of Democratic leaders, but he turned to white meat to make a pivotal point for his campaign.
Hassebrook argued that Nebraskans were ready for change, after 16 years of Republicans holding the executive reins in the state.
“There’s an old farm saying. The water won’t run clear until you’ve got the hogs out of the crick,” a smiling Hassebrook said. “This time, in Nebraska, it’s time to get the hogs out of the crick.”
Hassebrook spoke to about 300 Nebraska Democratic delegates gathered for their annual State Convention.
In a fiery speech, the former University of Nebraska regent promised to support a minimum-wage hike expected to be placed on the November ballot and to revoke good time for any inmate who doesn’t follow the rules in prison.
Hassebrook, who is running against Republican Pete Ricketts in the Nov. 4 election, also said he expects to be outspent in the election but he believes he’ll have enough money to introduce himself to voters.
“The key to me is, we have to get better known by Nebraskans, and we will,” Hassebrook said.
Hassebrook was one of several statewide Democratic candidates who spoke Saturday, including U.S. Senate candidate David Domina, who is running against Republican Ben Sasse.
Domina, who gave his own spirited speech, said the time had come for the nation’s two major political parties to come together and find solutions to the nation’s problems.
“The I-will-have-it-my-way-or-none-of-us-will-have-anything approach (to governing) threatens the fabric of our country,” Domina said.
Many Democrats who attended Saturday’s convention strongly hope this is the year Nebraskans will return a Democrat to statewide office. Currently, Republicans control all five of the state’s congressional offices and all five of the state’s constitutional offices.
Democrats believe the stars are beginning to align in their favor. Most notably, they believe Nebraskans are ready for a change and that the minimum wage initiative expected to be on the fall ballot will drive Democratic voters to the polls.
Earlier this year, organizers gathered about 135,000 signatures to put a minimum-wage hike up for a vote. The signatures are still going through the verification process, but only about 84,000 qualified signatures are needed to get the measure on the ballot.
The proposal would increase the state’s minimum wage to $9 from $7.25 over a two-year period.
“You have to have a cause to organize around, and I believe raising the minimum wage is a good cause to bring people out,” said Maureen Nickels, a Democrat from Chapman who is running for the State Board of Education.
Hassebrook also made it clear that he believed the minimum-wage measure would play a key role in the campaign.
Hassebrook said that when he was a child, the average chief executive officer of a company earned about 20 times what his average worker took home in a paycheck. Today, the average CEO makes 275 times more than their average workers.
“If there was ever a case for raising the minimum wage, that’s it,” said Hassebrook.
Ricketts is on record opposing the minimum wage hike, arguing that it will cost the state jobs because, he said, businesses will have to reduce their workforce to pay for the hike.
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