As Nebraska prepares to choose our next governor, the state has a lot of positive things going on.
Our economy is healthy, unemployment is low and state coffers are full, thanks partly to an influx of federal COVID relief money. Underlying those physical assets, our people have a solid work ethic, a willingness to help our neighbor, a can-do attitude about solving problems. There are plenty of strengths to build on.
That said, Nebraska also faces some glaring issues that require state leadership. Broadband access is weak in some rural areas, hampering economic development. Housing — particularly affordable housing — is in short supply, keeping communities from bringing in new talent. Nursing homes are closing because of staffing woes and inadequate government reimbursements, hurting families and towns that want to ensure local care for their elderly.
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Meanwhile, school finance issues routinely get in the way of efforts to lower property taxes. And Nebraska hasn’t yet figured out how to address its overcrowded prison system.
Those issues and more will confront Nebraska’s next governor.
It’s important for Nebraska to have a leader who understands those issues and knows how to work with competing interests to find solutions.
Of the candidates in the Republican primary for governor, we think that leader is Brett Lindstrom.
A state senator from northwest Omaha for the past eight years, Lindstrom has experience with the state’s issues, a track record of working to build consensus, and a positive tone that will serve Nebraska well.
Lindstrom is a strong conservative, but not a radical ideologue. His experience in Nebraska’s officially nonpartisan Legislature suggests that he will be able to negotiate reasonably with people, of all political stripes, to come up with pragmatic, effective policies.
That’s what Nebraska needs in order to solve real problems and move the state forward.
It doesn’t help Nebraska to have a governor who is distracted by the culture war topic of the week. It doesn’t make Nebraska better to choose a governor who postures about matters outside the state’s control, such as the U.S. border.
At times, some of Lindstrom’s rivals in the governor’s race have seemed almost joyously divisive, looking for opportunities to exploit us-vs.-them issues.
Nebraska doesn’t need a governor who goes out of the way to pick fights.
In his legislative career, Lindstrom has shown that he can be the adult in the room. He’s someone who knows the value of seeking the changes that are possible, rather than insisting on having everything his way. He is a leader who recognizes that Nebraska will make the most progress when its diverse constituencies are pulling in the same direction.
“We’re all in this together,” he says. “You have to be reasonable. You have to listen. You can’t have a thought that it’s my way or the highway.”
Nebraska Republicans shouldn’t be misled by criticism from Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has claimed that Lindstrom is “not a conservative.” Perhaps the governor is still smarting from the times that Lindstrom — and quite a few other Republican lawmakers — dared to disagree with Ricketts and override some of his vetoes.
It’s certainly possible to be a conservative Nebraska Republican and not be a rubber stamp for Ricketts’ particular views about what that means. In a 2015 vote on the gas tax, for example, a supermajority of the GOP-dominated Legislature decided that it was important for Nebraska to chip away at a backlog of needed highway improvements — and that it was prudent to raise gas taxes to “pay as you go” for the extra work.
We’re pretty sure that, if elected, Lindstrom can be expected to push conservative values and policies including lower taxes. In fact, it’s possible that Lindstrom’s experience and approach would make him more effective at achieving conservative goals than some of his rivals.
Among other things, Lindstrom won passage last year of his bill to reduce state income taxes on Social Security income.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican, has endorsed Lindstrom, citing his knowledge of the Legislature and positive campaigning.
Whoever wins the Republican primary is expected to face State Sen. Carol Blood, the likely Democratic nominee. The GOP winner would be the favorite in the general election, given Nebraska’s strong Republican tilt. That means that the May primary could well determine the state’s governor for the next four years.
We believe that Brett Lindstrom would do well in that job and is the best choice for voters in the Nebraska Republican primary.
OWH Editorials March 2022
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