Chuck Hassebrook Enters The Gubernatorial Race
The Nebraska Gubernatorial race just got a lot more interesting last week. The most significant development was that former three-term UNL Regent Chuck Hassebrook made a formal announcement of his candidacy. Hassebrook is a serious candidate with the background necessary to be a good candidate as well as a good governor. After his announcement, Hassebrook launched a vigorous campaign across the state meeting with voters and the media.
One of the reasons why Hassebrook is a strong candidate is because his agricultural roots run deep - he is a native of Platte Center, Nebraska where his family has been engaged in farming for more than one hundred years. Hassebrook's agricultural background has also extended to his work at the Center For Rural Affairs where he is currently the executive director. In all, Hassebrook has served on the staff at the Center for nearly 35 years. At the Center, Hassebrook has been instrumental in the passage of numerous state and federal policy reforms. Hassebrook was also elected to the UNL Board of Regents three times in a heavily Republican district and served for almost 18 years as a Regent, including two terms as chair.
At his formal announcement, Hassebrook outlined the themes of his campaign. Hassebrook said: "My faith tells me that we have a responsibility to help everyone across this state - everyone deserves an opportunity... We must invest in creating a future where every Nebraskan has the chance to participate in the state's prosperity and where every community has a chance to thrive, that is why I'm running for governor."
In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star, Hassebrook spelled out his top priorities: educational opportunity and quality at all levels; providing community colleges with the resources to teach skills that meet workforce needs; development of wind energy in the state; and increased support for small business owners, especially in rural Nebraska. Hassebrook told the Lincoln Journal Star: "We need to create greater economic opportunity for people. Every person should have a chance for a better future. I believe it is really important to care about those who are struggling. That's what my life has been about."
Former Regent Hassebrook would be a formidable nominee due to his agricultural background and his demonstrated ability to win elections in Republican leaning areas. Hassebrook could combine his strength in the rural areas with votes from the Democratic leaning urban areas in Lincoln and Omaha. "The only way a Democrat can win statewide is do much better in the other 90 counties" beyond the urban concentration of voters in Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy counties, he said. Hassebrook contended that he could do a lot better in the Third Congressional District and other rural areas while still holding on to the Democratic base in metropolitan areas.
It appears as though Hassebrook will be joined in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by Omaha State Senator Steve Lathrop. Lathrop has won two elections in a Republican leaning district in Omaha and has an impressive record of accomplishment in the Unicameral. The Omaha Senator has begun a statewide listening tour and will soon formally announce his candidacy.
The entry of two top tier Democratic candidates into the gubernatorial race sends a strong signal that the eventual Democratic nominee has an excellent chance to win the general election. Our party's nominee has a genuine opportunity to regain the State House since many Nebraska voters have grown tired of long time, one party Republican rule. That one party rule has led to a culture of arrogance, entitlement and incompetence in the Heineman Administration. For example, tens of millions of dollars have been squandered at the Department of Health Human Services due to the incompetence of the Heineman Administration.
We here at the Nebraska Democratic Party are very excited to have a gubernatorial primary featuring two outstanding candidates. The Nebraska Democratic Party and its officers will be taking a neutral stance in the gubernatorial primary race. We will offer equal amounts of resources and support to both candidates. Once we have a gubernatorial nominee in May 2014, we will strongly support that nominee since both Hassebrook or Lathrop would make an excellent governor.