Today the Journal Star editorial board makes endorsements in primary races in Lincoln legislative districts.
We are picking the two candidates we believe are best qualified to move on to the general election. Next fall, we will endorse a single candidate in these races.
Because of term limits, there are three open seats. Fortunately for voters there are an ample number of qualified candidates from which to choose.
Brent Smoyer, 32, has a resumé that makes him aptly suited for the Legislature. He’s already served four years on the Lancaster County Board, where he has earned a reputation as a sensible conservative. Smoyer also knows his way around the State Capitol, where he worked for state senators as an aide. His experience will be valuable, since 17 new senators will be taking office due to term limits.
Smoyer has promised to work to make the state tax structure fairer and to help Nebraska be economically competitive. He has pledged to support education.
Smoyer’s record was blemished recently when he was cited for driving under the influence, with a blood-alcohol content of .095 percent. The legal limit is .08 percent. Smoyer has accepted full responsibility for his actions.
Justin C. Valencia, 33, says proudly that he was born and raised in northeast Lincoln. Calling himself a “homegrown candidate,” Valencia says the neighborhood took care of him as a youngster, and now he wants to help take care of it.
An attorney and adjunct professor at Bellevue University, Valencia has promised to work to expand Medicaid coverage to 55,000 Nebraskans.
He wants to work for lower income taxes, and to eliminate state taxes on Social Security and military pay. He also wants raise the minimum wage.
Also on the ballot are Matt Hansen, Larry Weixelman and Bob Van Valkenburg.
Patty Pansing Brooks, 55, has proven skills in drawing people together to achieve various goals.
Among her projects are the statewide campaign to renovate Centennial Mall, the 2006 campaign to pass the school bond issue and the campaign to create Union Plaza.
She supports investment in education, expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska and more use of renewable energy. She believes property taxes are too high, and that any tax reform must be achieved in a fair and balanced way.
Bob Rauner, 44, would bring a rare skillset to the Legislature, and one that is sorely needed to address some of the problems facing the state.
Rauner is a family physician who has practiced both in western and southeast Nebraska.
On his website, Rauner points out that 41 cents of every tax dollar in the state budget are spent on health and human services, and that it would be beneficial for the Legislature to have at least one state senator with real world experience in health care.
Other candidates on the ballot are Dallas Jones and Jeff Keidel.
Adam Morfeld, 28, already is a familiar face around the State Capitol.
As executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, he has been active, and successful, in stymieing attempts to enact a voter ID law in Nebraska.
Morfeld says the most important issue in his district and the state is underemployment and the lack of living-wage jobs. He wants targeted economic development and incentives for workforce development and high-tech industries.
He wants to expand Medicaid in Nebraska, pointing out that not only will it give more working Nebraskans access to health care, it also means sound economic investment in rural and urban hospitals.
James Michael Bowers, 25, has been active in various community organizations in northeast Lincoln, including the Northeast Family Center and the Havelock Neighborhood Association and Havelock Business Association.
As someone who has worked directly in the child welfare system, Bower says that one of his priorities as a state senator would be to improve the system, which currently is recovering from a failed attempt at privatization.
Bowers supports expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska. He also has proposed creation of a Legislative Ethics Committee in the Legislature that would review moral, ethical and legal issues, and would offer recommendations for disciplinary action as appropriate. If elected, Bowers says on his website, he would be the first openly gay elected state official in Nebraska.