WAUSA - A forum was held at the Wausa City Auditorium on Monday night for constituents to learn about the six State Senate candidates for the District 40 seat. Attendees submitted questions that were then answered by the candidates during an hour and a half discussion.
The candidates for the District 40 State Senate seat are, in alphabetical order: Tom Ferry, Timothy Gragert, Shane Greckel, Keith Kube, Michael Sobotka, and Julie Thomsen. Each candidate game a brief introduction before answering the questions and closing with a summary statement.
Questions asked by constituents in attendance largely focused on local issues such as property tax, education, and what change each candidate could potentially bring to Lincoln.
Property tax is an issue that many candidates were able to bring up during multiple questions throughout the night. Research shows that Nebraska has the seventh highest property tax percentage in the nation at 1.84%, while all other neighboring states have a property tax below 1.5%.
Cadidate Tom Ferry mentioned how he works with farmers in four different states and that the people in Nebraska are paying a much higher rate than most neighboring states. Ferry is a Ponca resident, veteran, and small businessman that prides himself on being a part of his community, and asked people to ask their friends in Ponca about him. He was formerly a volunteer firefighter, was a member of the Judicial Nominating commission for the District and County Court, and is a founding member of the Missouri River Outdoor Expedition Board. Ferry is also a member of the NRA.
Candidate Michael Sobotka mentioned property tax as well, and continued to say that Nebraska needs to cut spending along with taxes or else the people will just pay that difference in other ways. Sobotka is a fourth generation farmer in Holt County that joined the Nebraska Army National Guard at age 17 and served nine years, including being deployed to Iraq in 2006-2007, before receiving an honorable discharge in 2012. For more information Sobotka has a website at www.michaelsobotkaforneb.com.
Candidate Shane Greckel continued the sentiments about the property tax, and also took a strong stance towards technological innovation and how that can bring back jobs to rural areas that have seen a population decrease over the years. Greckel is a fifth generation farmer in Bloomfield and has taken an active role in representing his values in Lincoln by being a part of the Nerbaska Information Technology Commission, the State Legislative Policy Committee for Nebraska Farm Bureau, and more. For more information, Greckel encourages people to go to his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ShaneGreckel40 or his website at www.ShaneGreckel.com.
Candidate Timothy Gragert agreed that something needs to be done on the issue of property taxes, and showed his knowledge of things that can be done with the Nebraska education system. Gragert is a Creighton resident and has served 40 years in the Armed Forces as a MEDEVAC pilot before retiring in September of 2017. He also has served in his community in numerous ways including as a volunteer firefighter and on the Creighton School Board. Gragert also worked for over 30 years with the Natural Resource Conservation Foundation Service before retiring in December 2017.
Candidate Keith Kube talked about the government needing to be ran more like a business because otherwise the costs from taxes run freely without checks or balance. Kube cited his business acumen throughout the night, saying that he became an engineer because he liked to solve problems, and that love for problem solving carried with him through investment banking and consulting as well. Kube’s campaign card has a quote on it saying, “Extensive experience in agriculture, business and tax law to stop the persecution of Nebraska’s biggest industry.”
Candidate Julie Thomsen ended her night addressing the crowd and saying she never expected to run for state legislature but that she is doing it for a dear friend that died before the filing date. Thomsen is a Wakefield resident that said her main issues were taxes and healthcare. Thomsen believes that cheap healthcare is a necessity, especially for the people of Northeast Nebraska that are all either self-employed or a part of a small business.
This forum in Wausa was the second of it’s kind put on by the Nebraska Farm Bureau. The first took place in O’Neill and was the same format. District 40 covers Rock, Holt, Boyd, Knox, Cedar, and Dixon Counties. Currently there is not a third forum on the schedule, but there was buzz from some candidates saying they would like to hold another on the eastern part of the District since there have been ones in the Western and Central parts.
The forum stayed very respectful, with candidates managing their time, not talking over one another, and questions being direct and sincere. Many candidates commended the audience that attended, saying that this interaction is needed in local government. The candidates also complimented each other saying that there are many strong choices for the District 40 seat, and that the District is lucky compared to other Districts that can have a hard to finding candidates.
A top two primary will be held on May 15, 2018 and only the top two vote-getters will move on to the ballot for the general election. The general election will be on November 6, 2018.