Support State Senator Ken Haar - He's One Of Us
The election in Legislative District 21 pitting State Senator Ken Haar against Republican challenger Mike Hilgers is probably the marquee legislative race in this election cycle. Since the race began last year, both candidates have raised lots of money and have knocked on a lot of doors. What are Senator Haar's accomplishments? Just who is Mike Hilgers? Why is this race so important?
Senator Haar has been a resident of the Lincoln, Lancaster County area for over forty years. During this period of time, Ken has been very active in the community having served eight years on the Lincoln City Council and on numerous boards including the Lancaster County Board of Health, the Lincoln Mediation Center, and the Nebraska Sierra Club. During the last four years, Senator Haar has served Legislative District 21 with distinction.
Senator Haar's greatest accomplishment is the pipeline special session of the Legislature last year. Haar was the first public official who called for a special session regarding Trans Canada's plan to build an oil pipeline across the environmentally fragile Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer. While Deb Fischer steadfastly represented the interests of a foreign oil company and Dave Heineman held his finger up to the wind, Senator Haar showed real leadership in convincing his fellow State Senators to respond to the groundswell of opposition to Trans Canada's plans to build the pipeline.
Thanks to the hard work of Senator Haar (and other Senators), the results of the special session in November 2011 were a success. Trans Canada agreed to route the pipeline around the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer, and the Legislature gave the state authority to regulate future pipelines that may be built in Nebraska. Due to the leadership of Senator Haar, what started out as a long shot became a historic victory that rerouted the pipeline away from our groundwater.
Senator Haar's successes in the Legislature have been noticed by out of state, corporate special interests who resent the re-routing of the pipeline. Haar's opponent - Mike Hilgers - is a peripatetic and ambitious young man who would very much like to use a seat in the Legislature as a stepping stone to higher office. Mr. Hilgers only moved to Legislative District 21 in 2010 after spending all of his previous years in Omaha, Chicago and Texas. Apparently, Hilgers has ties in Texas to forces aligned with Karl Rove and Rick Perry. My educated guess is that Hilgers would like to parlay a term in the Legislature into yet another new address - this time in Washington, D.C.
The election in Legislative District 21 is important because it represents a battle between a native Nebraskan with grass roots support and a callow candidate with extensive ties to out of state, special interest money. I'm confident in the end the voters in Legislative District 21 will recognize that Haar is one of us and turn back the challenge from a carpet bagger who is heavily financed by money from outside of Nebraska.
This showdown between Senator Haar and Hilgers is just part of a larger battle for control of the Legislature. The Republicans recently held a high dollar fundraiser aimed at electing more Senators to the Unicameral who will be beholden to Heineman. The Republican Governor would like to reverse his setbacks in the most recent session of the Legislature and advance a regressive agenda which consists of the rejection of Obama Care's Medicaid expansion, and shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to everybody else by abolishing the state income tax and replacing the lost revenue by repealing sales tax exemptions.
The Nebraska Democratic Party has risen to Heineman's challenge by launching a fundraising appeal aimed at raising $7,500.00 for Democratic legislative candidates. "Governor Heineman's goal is to have a legislature that he can command, a legislature in which there is no compromise," Democratic finance chairman Andy Holland wrote, "We must protect the independence of the Legislature We must stop him."
I would urge my fellow Democrats to consider contributing to this fund and/or doing volunteer work for your local Democratic legislative candidate. Due to term limits, there are an unusually large number of open seats that are being vacated by Republican State Senators. We must take advantage of this rare opportunity and elect more Democrats to the Legislature to do the people's work. We have enough Senators in the Unicameral who are largely devoted to advancing the agenda of the well heeled special interests. Let's chase the money changers out of the State Capitol Building and take back our great State for the people!
Dennis Crawford is our newly elected 2nd Associate Chair. He will begin serving his term on the NDP's executive board at the first State Central Committee meeting following November's election. Thank you to Dennis for his contribution to the NDP's blog.