Krist, Ward, Davis seek Democratic nomination for governor

Bob Krist, Vanessa Ward, and Tyler Davis seek the Democratic nomination for governor. (Courtesy campaign photos)
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May 1, 2018 - 6:45am

Three people are running for the Nebraska Democratic Party’s nomination for governor this year. They come from different backgrounds, but share concern about how Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is running the state.


It’s a Friday night fish fry at Omaha’s Holy Name Catholic Church. A strong scent of fried, battered fish fills the air, as the gentle roar of hundreds of people eating, drinking and talking echoes off the green tile walls.

Wearing a cleanup apron, Bob Krist circles the roomful of long tables looking for trash, and, at the same time, potential votes. “You Bob?” someone asks. “I am – Bob Krist, running for governor and I’d love your support.”

“Why not?” another person chimes even, even before Krist adds, “I hope to present a little different leadership style than what’s currently there.”

“What’s currently there” is Nebraska’s Republican governor, Pete Ricketts. Krist, an Air Force veteran and a pilot, was himself a Republican until last year. But he’s differed from Ricketts on a wide range of tax and spending issues. Some of their sharpest clashes came when Krist, the father of a special needs daughter, opposed Ricketts’ proposed cut to funding for services to developmentally disabled people.

Also on the Democratic ballot is community activist Vanessa Ward, who spoke at a recent rally for her candidacy at the north Omaha assisted living facility where she lives. As she talked to supporters, Ward suggests Ricketts, with his wealthy business background, is out of touch.

“Ricketts – he wants to fight for things that are good for the upper entourage. But what about ‘We the People?” Ward asked.

“I’m concerned about ‘We the People.’ I love the people, see? But it’s not just in Omaha. It’s not just in Lincoln. But I’m talking about all the way out there in Scottsbluff. People are having some issues,” she added.

The third candidate in the race is Tyler Davis, an instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Davis and his wife also run a security company. In an interview in his northwest Omaha home, Davis criticized Ricketts’ emphasis on cutting taxes.

“The reason I’m running is Gov. Ricketts will turn Nebraska into the next Kansas or Oklahoma. In Oklahoma you see school districts coming to four day school weeks. And I don’t want to see that here in Nebraska,” Davis said.

For Bob Krist's campaign website, click here.

For Vanessa Ward's campaign website, click here.

For Tyler Davis's campaign website, click here.
 

Davis says Nebraska could be bringing in a lot more money for schools and other purposes.

“I think recreational marijuana is probably a good idea; industrial hemp; then medical marijuana. I think all those three industries will actually grow the economy. I think in Colorado it added $1 billion to their economy. And Nebraska could use that. We don’t always have to be the last one to the table,” he said.

Krist has spoken favorably about ideas like raising other taxes and increasing school aid to lower property taxes.

“Property tax relief is right on the top of my list. I have a plan that would better fund the property tax issue, because we’ll better fund education,” he said.

Ward, too, stresses improving schools.

“Government’s already supporting public schools. Let’s build it up. Let’s keep the arts alive, let’s do the things that can strengthen what we already have, she says, adding that she’ll examine the budget to find ways to strengthen schools without hurting taxpayers.

Each candidate points to his or her experience as a qualification for the job. Davis says his security company’s work protecting vacant buildings made him aware of the problems of homelessness, prompting him to work with Omaha city council representatives Aimee Melton, a Republican, and Ben Gray, a Democrat.

“We just started rocking the boat – making phone calls, trying to get partnerships, went and met with all the non-for-profits that work with the homeless, had discussions with them,” he said. “I think we’re better as individuals and as Nebraskans, and we can definitely solve it.”

Ward has been recognized for her work organizing block parties to combat drugs and gangs in her north Omaha neighborhood. She wants to bring that experience to working on problems at a statewide level. Calling herself an organizer, visionary, and community activist for the past 30 years, she declares, “I just really feel called to use it in a way that I can service more people.”

Krist, who’s finishing 10 years in the Legislature representing northwest Omaha, Bennington, and rural parts of Douglas County, says his government experience will help him address issues.  

“Knowing agencies as I do over the past 10 years and knowing the issues that we have seen in terms of the economy, in terms of its flux, I think someone needs to take the helm that has an attitude of problem solving that is outside the box," he said.

In the race to raise campaign money, Krist reported collecting nearly $53,000 by mid-April, and had $27,000 cash on hand. Davis reported raising just under $1,000, and had $800 cash on hand. And Ward did not file a report, which is not required until a candidate raises or spends $5,000.

Whoever wins the nomination will have a long way to go to match Ricketts, who reported raising nearly $600,000 and had $1.7 million cash on hand.   

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