LINCOLN — Voters will elect a first-time office holder when they decide the winner of what could be a closely contested election for Grand Island’s seat in the Nebraska Legislature.
Voters in Legislative District 35 also will have a clear choice between a Democrat and a Republican running for the officially nonpartisan Legislature.
“We’re about as far apart philosophically as you can get,” said attorney Gregg Neuhaus, the Republican who wants to work to stop government regulations on businesses, reduce taxes and block public benefits for immigrants who enter the country illegally.
Dan Quick, the Democratic candidate, said he’s more in touch with the concerns of working families in the district, many of whom hold multiple jobs to pay the bills.
“We’ve hit about 9,000 doors since last August,” Quick said. “I feel like when I talk to them they can relate to what I stand for — working family issues.”
About 19,000 voters had registered in the district as of last week. About 8,500 identify as Republicans, 6,100 as Democrats and 4,200 as independent.
Based upon the most recent finance reports from June, Quick had raised nearly $46,000 for his campaign, with the largest donations coming from organized labor. Neuhaus had raised $23,000, with his largest donations coming from businessmen and the Nebraska Bankers Association.
During the May primary election, Quick came out on top and Neuhaus beat a second Republican candidate vying for the seat. The two candidates are competing to replace Sen. Mike Gloor, a Republican who is term-limited.
Gloor has chosen not to make an endorsement in the race. But he did say the employment, ethnic, educational and other demographics of District 35 more closely resemble downtown Omaha districts than those in greater Nebraska. In other words, he said, the race could be close.
Quick, 58, said he can relate to working-class Grand Islanders because it’s a background he shares. He’s a welder and maintenance mechanic at Grand Island’s city-owned power plant. He also has been a leader in local and statewide labor organizations.
He thinks part of the answer to challenges facing working families has to do with being able to afford the education or training needed to compete for better careers. So providing funding and new approaches in education, from preschool to the university level, would be priorities for him.
Quick said he likes the career-pathway approaches offered in community colleges. He also supports ideas such as providing incentives to employers to help their workers get more training and skills.
He also said he is encouraged by the new major investments the state is making in highways and bridges because such projects support well-paying, skilled labor. He also favors Medicaid expansion as a way to help working adults with limited incomes obtain health care.
The two candidates said they are both anti-abortion, but they differ on other key issues.
For example, Neuhaus, a 63-year-old lawyer, said he opposes Medicaid expansion.
Another point of disagreement is immigration. The Legislature has passed measures in recent sessions allowing driver’s licenses and professional licenses for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Neuhaus said he would have voted against those bills. His ancestors immigrated from Germany so he doesn’t oppose immigration in general, he said, just when it fails to follow the rule of law.
“Those who are here illegally should not be voting,” he said. “So I don’t see how it hurts my chances.”
Quick said he would have voted for the license bills. The people who will benefit from the measures are often students or well-educated young adults whose illegal status is no fault of their own, he argued.
They also stake out different positions on the death penalty. Neuhaus supports it; Quick does not.
Neuhaus said one of his top priorities would be to remove state taxes on Social Security income and veterans’ benefits. He also would push for reforming the school aid formula and other policies that would reduce pressure on property taxes.
Neuhaus has received the endorsement of Gov. Pete Ricketts.
While he agrees with many of the governor’s positions, Neuhaus said he has told Ricketts they may part ways on some issues. For example, Ricketts is an opponent of gambling, but Neuhaus said he would most likely support some gambling proposals because the horse-racing industry is important to Grand Island, the home of Fonner Park.
Neuhaus is among a number of conservative candidates who’ve signed a pledge not to raise the gas tax and to support an effort to end secret ballots on leadership votes in the Legislature.
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Home: Grand Island
Occupation: Works at Platte Generating Station
Public offices held: None
Education: High school diploma
Family: Married, three children
Home: Grand Island
Public offices held: None
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; law degree, University of Denver College of Law
Family: Married, two children