LINCOLN — After seven years in the Nebraska Legislature, State Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege believes he has the experience to run the state.
Carlson, 71, became the latest candidate to jump into the state's wide-open governor's race, making his official announcement Friday. The Republican cited his experience as a state lawmaker and the fact he has been chosen by his colleagues to serve as chairman of two important committees, Agriculture and Natural Resources, as examples of his leadership skills.
“I believe leadership is a gift, and many people have told me I have that gift,” said Carlson, who made his announcement in the Rotunda of the State Capitol with about 75 family members, supporters and State Capitol employees on hand.
Carlson is the third person to announce his candidacy for governor, joining State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont and former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook.
It is unlikely Carlson will be the last candidate eager to succeed Gov. Dave Heineman, who cannot run for re-election in 2014 because of term limits.
Several others are contemplating a run, including State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha and Falls City businessman Charles Herbster.
Carlson said he decided to run only after former State Sen. Mike Flood made it clear earlier this week that he would not be a candidate. Carlson said that if Flood had run, he would have thrown his support behind the former speaker of the legislature.
Flood had considered jumping back into the race after withdrawing earlier because of his wife's cancer diagnosis.
A longtime financial advisor, Carlson said he and his wife, Margo, took Flood's decision to stay out of the race as a “sign” that he should get into the fray.
So far Carlson has yet to hire any campaign staff members. He said he plans to begin assembling a campaign in the coming weeks. He also said his goal will be to travel to all of the state's 93 counties by this fall.
In his speech, Carlson gave few concrete examples of his plans for the state, instead broadly painting his views. He said he believed that the state needed more jobs that pay at least $100,000 a year and indicated that one way to create such high-paying jobs is to have a competitive and fair tax system.
For every six-figure income, state and local governments collect about $12,000 in tax revenue.
“We have to have those kind of jobs and a lot of them to pay for the services we need,” said Carlson.
Describing himself as a fiscal conservative, he also said he believes that the state's unemployment benefits should be limited. Currently, unemployed people in the state can receive benefits for up to 26 weeks.
“I think the benefit period is too long,” he said.