Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman thinks the Omaha school board races are so important that he made an unusual move Monday and endorsed a local candidate.
Heineman said he's backing Woody Bradford, a candidate to represent Subdistrict 3 — Dundee and northwest Omaha — on the board that governs the Omaha Public Schools.
“The OPS board needs a new direction and new leadership,” Heineman said.
Bradford's opponent, board President Marian Fey, has been on the board since 2011.
Bradford's campaign also announced an endorsement from former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey.
Heineman is the state's top Republican, while Fahey is a longtime Democrat. Bradford is an independent. Fey is a Democrat. The race is officially nonpartisan.
Heineman said he has known of Bradford, a longtime Omaha attorney, for many years, though Heineman said he doesn't consider Bradford a close friend.
He said he thinks Bradford will focus on academic achievement with real accountability.
“He'll focus on funding for the classroom,” Heineman said, “not a million-dollar golden parachute for the superintendent.”
Last fall the OPS board was surprised when retiring Superintendent John Mackiel received a $1 million retirement payout that had been written into his contract years ago.
Fey declined to comment on the endorsements but pointed to the decision of the Omaha Education Association, the OPS teachers union, to support her.
Heineman said he sometimes endorses candidates in local races, such as city council or county board contests. He also recalls endorsing candidates running for Millard school board seats. He evaluates each race on an individual basis, he said.
Fahey said he's known Bradford for more than 30 years. Bradford's law firm, Bradford & Coenen, has long represented Fahey.
Fahey said the OPS board could use some new blood and called Bradford the perfect choice.
“I don't know anyone who knows him and doesn't hold him in high regard,” Fahey said.
Contact the writer: