Ricketts, Krist set to compete for governorship in November

Govl. Pete Ricketts is interviewed after his primary victory (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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May 16, 2018 - 12:46am

Republican Governor Pete Ricketts and Democratic State Senator Bob Krist won their parties’ nominations for governor Tuesday, setting up an election of contrasts for November.


It was an easy victory for Ricketts, who won more than 80 percent of the Republican vote against Krystal Gabel, who centered her campaign on advocating for medical marijuana and industrial hemp.

In an interview at an election night party in Papillion, Ricketts promised to build on what he said he’s accomplished in his first term. “We’re very excited. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be governor for the last three and a half years, and I appreciate the confidence Nebraska voters have shown in me by giving me the opportunity to run for that second term. And we’re just going to build on the foundation of all the great work that we’ve done already,” he said.

Ricketts said Nebraska leads the nation in economic development, adding that investments by companies including Costco, Facebook, Cargill and Kawasaki are creating jobs and enabling families to enjoy the good life.

Krist’s margin of victory in his race was not as great as Ricketts’. The retired Air Force colonel and now private pilot, a Republican until last year, was winning about 6 in 10 votes from Democrats, beating out community activist Vanessa Ward and businessman and instructor Tyler Davis.

In an interview at his victory party, Krist said he would pursue solutions to issues that he said Ricketts has failed to solve, including property taxes, education, and corrections. And he said his campaign would also try to change the tone and partisanship of governing. “We’re very much involved…with trying to rebalance the separation of powers and the civility that needs to go on in the Legislature,” he said.

Sen. Bob Krist is interviewed after his primary victory (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

Krist used that to draw a contrast with Ricketts’ family wealth from TD Ameritrade founded by his father, Joe Ricketts. “I’m obviously not a rich man, so I’m not going to buy my Legislature. I’m going to work with those 49 senators that have come in. And now, Lynne (Walz, Krist’s running mate for lieutenant governor) and I have a collective 12 years of legislative experience that I think we’re going to employ to try to rebalance that civility,” he said.

Ricketts declined to respond directly to Krist’s criticism of his governing style. But he defended his efforts to try and elect more conservative Republicans to the Legislature. “Healthy tension in the Legislature’s a good thing, right? We want to make sure we’re really thrashing out those ideas on the floor and trying to get to the best solutions. And of course I’m going to support the Republicans that are running because that’s the party I’m in, that’s what we believe as far as making sure we’re not intrusive as far as government, we’re creating those opportunities, and that we’re helping people be able to enjoy the good life,” he said.

Ricketts also touted his record on property taxes, which he has identified as the number one issue facing the state. “We’ve increased the property tax credit relief fund by over 45 percent because we’ve been able to control spending. That’s dollar for dollar tax relief from the state to all property owners in the state, and over $840 million of it. So we’re going to continue to explore ideas on how we can deliver that property tax relief to hardworking Nebraska families, because that’s what they’re talking about as I travel the state,” Ricketts said.

But Krist faulted Ricketts for not solving property tax problems. “What we’ve proven is, if we stay inside the box and do things the same way we have, we’re going to get the same results. And my intention would be to get outside the box and solve our problems,” Krist said.

Krist said he would welcome a challenge from Ricketts to spell out his ideas to solve those problems. “I will tell him the same thing I told him before: let’s actually have a conversation, which never happens in the Ricketts administration,” Krist said, adding that the governor should to talk to legislators.

For his part, Ricketts, despite significant campaign finance and voter registration advantages, said he’s not planning to coast between now and November. “We’re not going to take anything for granted. We’re going to work very hard to earn each and every vote, and that’s what campaigns should be about,” he said. 

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