Omaha tax attorney Bryan Slone jumped into the 2014 race for governor Saturday, saying he brings a unique blend of government experience and business knowledge.
Slone is a former Reagan administration tax counsel who until recently ran a major Omaha accounting office. The 56-year-old Republican said his background would help him to build on the state's growing economy and create opportunity for the next generation of Nebraskans.
“It's really important right now to not only continue Dave Heineman's legacy in terms of fiscal responsibility but to create a vision for the future,'' Slone said in an interview. “We are in really great shape as a state right now. We have a real opportunity to build on that and bring more jobs and more opportunities to the state.''
Slone can claim some notable ties to Heineman, the Republican governor who will be forced out by term limits after a decade in office. Slone was treasurer for Heineman's first governor campaign, and the two have been friends for more than 25 years. Both had worked together during the 1980s in the Washington office of then-Rep. Hal Daub of Omaha.
Heineman hasn't endorsed any of the Republican contenders, nor does it seem Slone expects him to. “The governor wishes me well in the race just like the other candidates,'' he said.
With his relatively late entry — coming five months before the May 13 primary — Slone joins a crowded field. Other Republicans running include State Sens. Beau McCoy, Charlie Janssen and Tom Carlson, State Auditor Mike Foley and Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts. Chuck Hassebrook, a former member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, is the lone Democrat.
Slone kicked off his campaign Saturday with a rally in Gering, where he graduated from high school. It's one of numerous communities in the state to which Slone has ties.
The son of a school administrator, Slone spent his childhood in Wayne, Laurel, Neligh, Crete, Gordon and Gering. He then attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, obtaining both an accounting degree and a law degree.
In 1986, Slone went to Washington as tax counsel to Daub, a member of the congressional committee that was drafting a major tax reform bill. When the landmark 1986 legislation passed, Slone went to work in the Reagan administration to help implement the law, serving as a legal counsel to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and the agency's liaison to Congress.
After two years with the IRS, Slone joined a Washington law firm. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Slone moved to East Germany and opened a law office there, spending three years working with the former communist country to privatize its state-owned businesses.
In 1997, he returned to Nebraska to work in the Omaha office of Deloitte Tax, one of the nation's top accounting firms. He worked with companies doing business internationally and represented companies before the IRS. Slone served as managing partner of the office for six years before resigning three weeks ago to prepare for his governor bid.
Slone serves on the boards of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, the Joslyn Art Museum and the Omaha Symphony and has organized an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. He and his wife, Leslie, have two children: Steven, a 27-year-old aviation electronics specialist in the Navy, and Lauryn, a 25-year-old accountant in Atlanta.
Slone said his background has prepared him to be governor, giving him leadership experience, a global view of business, knowledge of tax policy and concern for all parts of the state.
“When I talk about economic development, I mean not only Omaha and Lincoln, but for small towns across the state,” he said.
Slone easily ranks as the least known of the six GOP candidates. But he said Republicans will see he has strong conservative and pro-business principles, calling himself a “Reagan Republican.”
Slone said he first began to seriously consider a bid in April. He said his campaign has come together quickly since he left Deloitte. His campaign staff is headed by Ryan Horn, who managed Mayor Jean Stothert's successful run for Omaha mayor.
The candidate said he's looking forward to introducing himself to the state's voters in the months ahead. As part of his kickoff, he's planning press conferences Monday in Omaha and Lincoln.
“The great fun of this campaign is spending time in Nebraska in all the places I grew up and spending time with the voters,'' he said. “I will spend 24/7 until May 13 talking to voters. I couldn't be more excited about doing that.''