LINCOLN — After considering a bid for months, State Sen. Brad Ashford said Tuesday he will be a candidate for mayor of Omaha in 2013.
Ashford, a 62-year-old lawyer, is the first to announce for the mayoral race.
A spokesman for Mayor Jim Suttle said the mayor will be stating his re-election intentions on Tuesday, which is his birthday.
“This doesn't change anything for Jim Suttle,” Gary DiSilvestro, the mayor's campaign consultant, said of Ashford's candidacy. “It won't discourage any of the other candidates from getting into the race.”
Several others have been mentioned as possible mayoral candidates, including City Council members Jean Stothert and Franklin Thompson, former Councilman Dan Welch and Omaha businessman Dave Nabity.
The city's primary election will be in April.
Ashford has the most seniority in the Legislature after serving a total of 14 years. A longtime Republican, he changed his political affiliation in December to independent.
Last week, the senator changed the name of his political fundraising committee from “Ashford for Legislature” to “Ashford for Omaha” so he can begin raising money for the mayoral race.
“I'm planning to run,” he said, adding that he'll have a formal campaign kickoff this fall.
Ashford said he will emphasize three issues: reducing youth violence, reining in spending on city police and fire pensions and merging the city and Douglas County governments.
“We can't afford the benefits we're paying out now,” he said, referring to the pensions. “We can't just keep doing business as usual.”
Ashford is the longtime chairman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee. He has focused a number of legislative proposals on reducing youth violence in Omaha, improving the juvenile justice system and addressing Omaha's fiscal woes.
He was instrumental this spring in winning passage of a bill that would allow Omaha and other cities, with voter approval, to increase local sales taxes by up to a half-cent.
The bill was approved over a veto by Gov. Dave Heineman, who said the bill represented a tax increase. Ashford disagreed, calling it a way for voters to determine what taxes they preferred to pay and a way to shift the tax load from less-popular taxes such as property taxes.
The senator said his candidacy is “not so much” about Suttle, a Democrat who is expected to seek re-election.
“We just need to go in another direction,” said Ashford, who opposed the recall election against Suttle in January 2011.
Ashford is a former director of the Omaha Housing Authority and a founding member of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board.
His wife, Ann, is running for an open seat on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents against Hal Daub, a former Omaha mayor and U.S. congressman.
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