Krystal Gabel challenging Gov. Pete Ricketts for Republican nomination

Krystal Gabel; Gov. Pete Ricketts (Campaign courtesy photos)
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May 2, 2018 - 6:45am

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is running for reelection. But Ricketts must first win the May 15th Republican primary, in which he’s being challenged by Krystal Gabel.


If you want to get a sense of Pete Ricketts’ reelection campaign, you can watch the governor and some of his supporters talk in a campaign ad on YouTube.

“Over the last two years, Nebraska has led the nation in economic development. For farmers. For business. For families. Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate since 1999. With over $800 million in property tax relief. And for the first time, Nebraska has over one million non-farm jobs,” the ad says.

If you want to get a sense of Ricketts’ challenger Krystal Gabel’s campaign, you can catch her on a Lincoln street corner, where the former technical writer’s trying to get people to sign a petition to establish the Legal Marijuana Now Party of Nebraska.

“Are you registered to vote?” she asked. “I’m Krystal. I’m running for governor here. I would really love to have your vote. There’s more on my platform but I’m really pushing for medical and industrial hemp in our state.”

Gable says Nebraska is not ready to legalize recreational marijuana. But she says medical marijuana should be legalized, and the state could improve its economy by commercializing industrial hemp.

“What we do is build a new industry. We expand our economy in hemp. We can build tens of thousands of products out of hemp: Biodiesel. Bioethanol. Construction materials. Plastics. These are all jobs – manufacturing – we can bring to Nebraska,” Gabel said.

Gabel says that’s a main reason she’s running for the Republican nomination.

“This is the way we get medical (marijuana) in the state – industrial hemp. Pete Ricketts needs to go if we want that. He means ‘no’ to that,” she said.

Ricketts’ campaign declined to make him available for this story. But in an email, the campaign confirmed Ricketts supports the current, university-based industrial hemp research.

For Krystal Gabel's campaign website, click here.

For Pete Ricketts campaign website, click here.

The governor has consistently opposed legislative efforts to legalize medical marijuana at the state level. Last month he was asked if his thinking was affected by reports that states with easier access to medical marijuana had fewer problems with opioid addiction.

“I was just talking to our colonel (Col. John Bolduc, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol) yesterday about it, and he said that he’d never met a heroin addict that didn’t start with marijuana first,” Ricketts said. “I think that marijuana actually can lead to other problems as well, so it actually doesn’t have an impact on me.

“Certainly, there’s an opportunity for medical marijuana; it has to go through the FDA process just like any other dangerous drug, and that’s the process we should follow in this state,” Ricketts added.

Overall, Ricketts is emphasizing his efforts at improving the state’s economy, reducing the growth of state spending, and cutting taxes. In an interview with NET News just before the end of the recent legislative session, he touted the newly-revised state budget.

“We made some very positive accomplishments, the most primary being living within our budget. One of the things we’ve seen, because  the farm economy has been down, farm income’s been cut in half since 2013, is that our revenues at the state have fallen below our forecast. Which means that we’ve got to tighten our belts and live within our means just like any Nebraska family has to do. And so we have constrained that spending and if our revenues hit forecast, we’ll be able to live within our means with regard to that. That’s important,” he said.

Ricketts also points to another aspect of the budget.

“Also in that budget, we got some key language to help protect our Title X dollars and make sure that they will not go to anybody who’s performing abortions, directly counseling for abortions, or referring to abortions,” Ricketts said.

That language is expected to deny Planned Parenthood the roughly $270,000 it’s getting this year. Planned Parenthood says that federal Title X money is used to provide birth control, pap smears and other non-abortion services.

Gabel says taking money away from Planned Parenthood takes reproductive healthcare away from more than 8,000 poor Nebraskans. 

Gabel, who’s 32, says she’s using social media to campaign, and hoping more young people get involved in politics. She didn’t file a campaign finance report for the primary, which isn’t required if a candidate doesn’t raise or spend $5,000. Ricketts, who’s 53, reported raising nearly $600,000 and having nearly $1.7 million in his campaign treasury.

The winner of the Republican nomination will face one of three Democratic candidates – state Sen. Bob Krist, community activist Vanessa Ward, or businessman Tyler Davis -- in November.

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