Residents of midtown Omaha, rest assured: You will be represented by an advocate for foster children in Lincoln next year.
Sara Howard, Erica Fish and Vernon J. Davis are vying to represent District 9 in the Nebraska Legislature.
Howard is the daughter of State Sen. Gwen Howard, a social worker, and Fish is a former foster parent and stepdaughter of State Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial. Davis is a former foster child who's getting involved in politics for the first time.
Two will move on from the May 15 primary to compete in the November general election for the nonpartisan Legislature. Gwen Howard cannot seek re-election because of term limits, and she is running for the U.S. House.
Sara Howard has led the pack in fundraising, with about $16,000 gathered and a few thousand spent as of April 10.
Neither Fish nor Davis has raised or spent $5,000, the threshold for reporting in Nebraska. Fish said she plans to spend about $10,000 before the primary.
Sara Howard said she has her mother's support but plans to earn her own way.
“I never wanted anybody to think I thought this was mine for the taking,” she said.
That's why she started fundraising in August, soon after entering the race. Much of her funds so far come from labor unions, for which Howard said she would advocate as a lawmaker.
Howard grew up in District 9 and said she has gotten to know her neighbors better through her mother's eight-year tenure.
Unlike her mother, Sara Howard said she thinks the best solution to foster care is to continue a public-private partnership rather than bring all of the work back to the state.
Her other priorities include providing access to quality health care and protecting education funding when it's time to cut the state budget.
Davis was in foster care early in his life, and from ages 15 to 17 he lived in Michigan. He said he'd bring a fresh perspective to the issue in Nebraska.
“Without that experience, I wouldn't be here today,” he said.
Davis said he doesn't know enough about the system in Nebraska to offer specific proposals.
His other main issues include giving counties and cities as much control as possible and requiring Nebraskans to present identification when voting, a proposal that was unsuccessful in the last legislative session.
He said he's not unilaterally opposed to tax increases, but his support for one would be unlikely. “Cost containment would be my first priority,” Davis said.
Fish said she has experienced the foster care system in another capacity and fixing it is undoubtedly her main issue.
A bad experience as a foster parent — coupled with complaints that she investigated the foster care system for her stepfather — led her to believe the system is broken.
She said there's still a lot left to do to fix the problems, which she believes weren't caused by one person or agency.
“Nobody wants to see a kid fail,” she said. “Nobody. So why are all these kids failing?”
Fish believes legislators can find enough savings in overhead costs to increase pay for social workers and other employees.
She said Christensen taught her to treat everyone with respect, even those who disagree. But in her campaign, her stepfather offers advice and not much more.
“He had to pave his own way, and I have to pave my own way,” she said.
Contact the writer: