The odds are sky high most places against two retired Air Force master sergeants facing each other on a general election ballot.
But they're not so stratospheric in Sarpy County, where military veterans are 11 percent of the population.
The former senior noncommissioned officers — challenger Suzanne McNamara and incumbent Scott Price — are candidates for the Nebraska Legislature's District 3 seat.
McNamara and Price say the coincidence is an example of veterans staying involved in their government after years of serving their country and sharing a concern for the welfare of military members and their families.
Each enlisted and served 20 years in the Air Force. McNamara was a Russian linguist and instructor at bases in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan. Price spent much of his duty time supporting Army 1st Armored Division theater and area defense commands in Germany and Hungary.
Although Price is seeking re-election and finished 20 percentage points ahead of McNamara in the two-candidate primary, the challenger said the newly realigned district after the 2010 Census makes the election an open race for a significant number of voters who were not in the district four years ago. Parts of Bellevue and Papillion that are now in District 3 were served by State Sens. Abbie Cornett, Heath Mello and Jim Smith.
Local property taxes are a top issue among voters in the suburban Omaha district, the candidates said.
Price, who said he opposes any effort to raise taxes, said the problem manifests itself when state funding for local governments dries up, and school districts or other entities increase property taxes to make up the shortfall.
“What people will bear is a number that usually is different than what elected people consider,'' he said. “This is the wrong time to take money out of family or individual pockets.''
McNamara said that had she been in the Legislature last session, she would have fought for property-tax relief instead of reducing individual income tax rates.
“I think it would have been more meaningful,'' she said. “I'd look for opportunities to beef up revenues from other sources ... and try to get more money into the general fund so counties don't have to raise property taxes.''
McNamara said she probably would oppose further efforts to eliminate the inheritance tax because it's a necessary — although unreliable — source of revenue for counties.
Price said he favors eliminating the inheritance tax but acknowledged that its demise would create revenue troubles for counties.
“I find it challenging to budget on the expected passing of citizens,” he said.
Price said he will continue to work to remove Sarpy County school districts from the Learning Community, the educational cooperative created by the Legislature from the 11 school districts in Douglas and Sarpy Counties to help improve academic achievement for disadvantaged youth. He said the program should be reviewed to determine if it has been effective.
“There's always opportunity to refine it,” he said.
McNamara said the Learning Community needs tweaking, but “my intention is not to try to get rid of it.''
“I think it's done some good,” she said. “It's angered some people. I don't think it's going away and probably could use some improvement. The Legislature is working on that.''
McNamara said she would oppose efforts in the Legislature to establish a voter identification law. Price said he supports the concept of voter ID.
“I strenuously object to something that would potentially disenfranchise a number of elderly and impoverished people who don't have cars and the ID they need,'' McNamara said.
Price voted to uphold Gov. Dave Heineman's vetoes of bills to restore taxpayer-funded prenatal care for the unborn babies of illegal immigrants and to allow cities to raise sales taxes up to one-half cent. Opponents of the vetoes prevailed, however, and the bills became law.
Price was philosophical about voting with the losing side. He said that most votes in the Legislature — including the veto overrides — have bipartisan support.
“Are there subjects that can be drawn down partisan lines? Absolutely,'' he said. “But let's look at what actually happens.''
McNamara said she was pleased with the overrides. The prenatal care bill made good moral and economic sense, she said. The sales tax bill will give people the chance to tax themselves for projects they deem important.
“That comes from the military attitude of solving problems at the lowest level possible,'' McNamara said. “What communities can do, they should be able to do.''
Contact the writer: 402-444-1127, email@example.com
Occupation: Attorney, specializing in veteran disability benefit claims; retired Air Force
Offices held: None
Education: Associate degree in applied science, Community College of the Air Force, 1997; bachelor's degree in liberal studies, Excelsior College, 2000; Creighton University School of Law, 2005
Family: Married, two children
Occupation: Retired Air Force
Offices held: Elected to Nebraska Legislature 2008
Education: Community College of Air Force (weather technology), 2002; bachelor's degree in technology management from Peru State College, 2004
Family: Married, three children
Faith: Southern Baptist