Six candidates are vying to represent District 40 — made up of Knox, Boyd, Cedar, Dixon, Holt and Rock counties — in the Nebraska Legislature.
The candidates are Keith Kube of Crofton, Shane Greckel of Bloomfield, Timothy Gragert of Creighton, Thomas Ferry of Ponca, Michael Sobotka of Inman and Julie Thomsen of Wakefield.
The top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election to determine who succeeds Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, who can’t seek re-election because of term limits.
Keith Kube said he's running for office because having worked to solve problems throughout his entire career, he's found that specific skillset is lacking in government.
"Government bureaucracies have a tendency to only address the symptom and not the real problem or its cause," he said. "There seems to be little incentive to solve problems in government because if they did solve the problem, they would be out of a job and would lose their funding."
Kube said he's a candidate worth supporting because he's helped more than 1,000 clients address financial and fiscal problems during his career. By applying these skills to government, Kube said he thinks he could make the state and country a better place.
That's why his top priority is addressing the property tax problem in Nebraska.
"The property tax system is fundamentally unfair and persecutes the largest industry in the state, the farmers and ranchers," Kube said. "With career experience in tax and finance, working with both rural and urban communities, I am convinced this solution requires a strong business background to expose, address and fix the unfairness and inconsistencies in the tax law."
Kube said he sticks to the core values of truth, fairness, sustainability and integrity when finding solutions.
Shane Greckel said that as an active member of his community with a dedication to see the rural lifestyle thrive, he felt compelled to seek office.
"Over the years, I have seen many friends and neighbors over-regulated or over-taxed by the governments that seek to serve them," Greckel said. "I intend to bring their voices to Lincoln so that rural Nebraska is well represented. Not only does it have to be the farmers' and ranchers' voices that are elevated, but those of the small businesses of our main streets (that) need to be brought forward for their stories to be told."
Greckel said his campaign, not just him as a candidate, is worth supporting because it’s made up of volunteers from the 40th District who are accessible when the community needs help or wants to voice concerns or opinions.
If elected, Greckel said he would focus on taxes and fiscal responsibility. He would like to see all taxes — income, sales and property — lowered, with an emphasis on reducing property taxes so that Nebraska can be more competitive with its neighboring states.
Agriculture is also a priority.
"As the next state senator for District 40, I will focus on creating a dynamic agriculture system growing Nebraska's economy through combined efforts related to livestock growth, expand markets, value-added product, and through the increased use of technology," he said. "All of this, along with the traditional agriculture economy, will lead to growth and increased opportunities for today's producers and future generations."
Economic development — adding new businesses and growing existing ones while fostering an environment of entrepreneurship — and education are other issues Greckel would choose to focus on.
TIMOTHY GRAGERT said he is running to represent District 40 because he has served the country throughout his adult life and still has the desire to serve.
"I am confident that I can represent the constituents of the 40th District because of what I have accomplished in retiring from two very successful careers, working both of them concurrently for the past 30-plus years," he said. "This task took the skills I have that are very important to being successful as a state senator, and those are communication and coordination."
Beyond those skills, Gragert said he is a candidate worth supporting because of his military background, which required that he display integrity and trust in the missions he has completed.
With this background, an important issue to him is improving services for veterans in rural areas. Gragert said he would work with veterans service officers in District 40 to improve access to Veteran Affairs services and enable veterans to use local medical facilities.
Another important issue to him is water quality.
"With my experience working with producers for the past 31-plus years, I will work the Nebraska NRDs and producers on providing incentive payments for the conservation practices that directly affect nitrate issues," Gragert said.
Lastly, he'd focus on state aid to rural public schools. Gragert said he'd work with experts on adjusting the public school state aid formula so that it provides fair aid to all rural schools while taking some pressure off of property taxes.
THOMAS FERRY said he is running for office because he believes Nebraska needs to cut property taxes, lessen regulations and cut state spending.
"My 37 years of doing business in almost every community in this district (and) throughout other areas of Nebraska have given me a unique understanding of the problem we all experience in these areas," Ferry said. "This combined with my community involvement and experience puts me in a position to lead in these areas."
The three aforementioned issues would be Ferry's top priorities if he's elected. He said he would use his years of problem-solving experience in business and community involvement to immediately address these issues.
Particularly, Ferry said, his experience on a judicial nominating commission and as a founding and current member of the Missouri River Outdoor Expedition Board make him a candidate worth supporting. He's also a past president of the Ponca Chamber of Commerce.
"I am excited to have the opportunity to continue my community involvement to serve my constituents in Northeast Nebraska," Ferry said.
MICHAEL SOBOTKA is running to represent District 40 because he believes government has strayed from its original limited role, and he'd like to help restore what the founding fathers envisioned.
Three issues that top his list of priorities are taxes, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and education.
"Nebraska taxes are far too high and I will work to greatly reduce them," he said.
He said the cause of high taxes, in his opinion, is inflated state spending. So, a reduction in taxes needs to be accompanied by a cut in spending, he said.
Sobotka said he'd also work toward legislation protecting the constitutional carry of guns for all law-abiding Nebraskans, and he'd work to prevent federal interference with the rights of citizens.
Education is also an issue he'd keep an eye on.
"Bureaucrats cannot possibly understand the needs of Nebraska's children as well as the people of Nebraska who work daily with our children," he said. "Nebraska must regain control of our educational system for the long-term benefit of our population to improve the quality education, reduce runaway costs and ensure a safe learning environment. Nullification of inefficient and shortsighted federal education policies will achieve these goals."
Julie Thomsen said she's running for office because she understands Nebraska must do more to stop needless spending.
"As a resident of Dixon County, I understand first-hand the desire people in rural Nebraska have for access to quality health care and support for our public schools," Thomsen said. "We cannot continue to rely on local property taxes to fund these important priorities while the Legislature gives more and more state aid and dollars to Lincoln and Omaha. That's why I'm running for the Nebraska Legislature — to defend our rural communities, end the unnecessary burden of property taxes on families in this area and fight for our fair share of state aid for rural schools and health care providers."
That's why Thomsen said she plans to focus on affordable and accessible health care, which includes expanding Medicaid.
She's also interested in affordable quality child care and infrastructure, particularly improving roads and bridges.
"As someone who has been active in my community for years, I feel I have a real insight to the issues important to the people of this district," Thomsen said. "And I will continue to stay engaged, informed and listen to their ideas and concerns in order to be the most effective leader and representative for this area in the Nebraska Legislature."