Campaign Connection 2014: Democrat Candidates for Attorney General

Attorney general candidates prepare to address law students. (Photo by Bill Kelly, NET News)
Allan Eurek campaigning. (Photo by Bill Kelly, NET News)
Janet Stewart campaigning. (Photo by Bill Kelly, NET News)
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April 23, 2014 - 7:00am

When current Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning decided to run for Governor just months before the May primary, he opened up a key top level office in Nebraska. Four Republicans and two Democrats had only weeks to put together a statewide campaign. As part of our Election 2014 initiative, NET News prepared short biographies of each candidate and selected excerpts from interviews with Bill Kelly of NET News.

Below are comments from the Democrat candidates, Janet Stewart and Allan Eurek.  Read comments from the Republican candidates here.

Janet Stewart (Photo by Bill Kelly, NET News)

Janet Stewart, age 65, was born in Omaha, Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha for her undergraduate and went on to Creighton University of Law school for her degree in law and then back to the University of Nebraska at Omaha for her masters. Stewart started at a state agency for public employee disputes and then went on to work as an in-house litigation attorney for 26 years. She currently practices law primarily on juvenile, family and insurance cases. Stewart lives in Fremont, Nebraska with her husband.

Why run to be attorney general?

Stewart: I decided that I wanted to return to public service. I’m getting close to retirement age now and I thought I would devote my remaining years to serving the public once again. I did work for Mutual of Omaha for 24 years in their litigation department and I managed litigation throughout the United States. I’ve had a lot of experience going to other jurisdictions and managing really skilled trial attorneys who would do the litigation on behalf of my companies. That’s exactly the type of skills you need to be the attorney general.

What issue would you most like to put forward if you become attorney general?

Stewart: For the past seven years I have been focusing my practice on helping children and families in the juvenile court system. And the attorney general does have departments that do work helping local prosecutors on child protection and domestic violence cases and I think I could make a real difference there.

What is lacking in that area now that you’d like to change?

Stewart: Well I don’t honestly know that until I get there because the issues are ones of staffing and whether they have an appropriate level of funding so I would have to get there in order to assess those. I would just like to make it a priority in the law enforcement part of the attorney general's job. I think this is where you can do the most good as far as being preventative and reducing crime in the future, helping children who are in unfortunate circumstances today.

What is your position on the death penalty?

Stewart: That is a public policy issue for the Legislature. There is no indication that the United States Supreme Court is going to say the death penalty is not enforceable anytime soon, so the job of the attorney general is to enforce the law and you would leave to the Legislature whether to abolish the death penalty.

Are you comfortable advocating on behalf Nebraska’s death penalty statute as it stands now?

Stewart: Yes, because that’s what attorneys do. You don’t advocate your own position in ligation. You are representing the interests of your client and if that is the public policy of the State of Nebraska then that would be my job.

Which illegal drug or controlled substance is the greatest risk to Nebraska?

Stewart: You know I don’t know if I know that. I can’t say I would be aware of that off the top of my head. I mean obviously there are a lot of problems in a lot of the drug enforcement and I’ve done some reading on that.

My perspective on (legalizing medical marijuana) has changed a little bit. From my own life perspective dealing with young adults I don’t see that marijuana does them any good. Having said that, within the last couple years I was a guardian for an adult person with a brain injury and had she lived in another state then marijuana would have been something she could have obtained and it would help her control some of her emotions. I can now see there is some value there that I didn’t know before.

Nebraska law currently places a 20 week time limit on making abortion available to women. Does that need to be revisited?

Stewart: The attorney general will defend the laws of the State of Nebraska. You decide what to do at the time the litigation is filed. You would look at the law and see (if there) is an issue to be defended. Or have court decisions come down that govern the outcome of the litigation. If the legislation is defensible then that is your job as attorney general.

Allan Eurek (Photo by Bill Kelly, NET News)

Allan Eurek, age 63, was born in Ashton, Nebraska and attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He is a retired Commander of the U.S. Reserve. After graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he earned his law degree from the University of Nebraska. Eurek established his own law firm and has served on the Nebraska State Personnel Board, the Nebraska Racing Commission. Eurek lives in Lincoln with his wife.

Why run to become attorney general?

Eurek: I’ve run for the office once before in 1990 and now at the twilight of my career I am trying again. I think now is the time to move the office toward a less political atmosphere. More non-partisan. The office has become tremendously political over the past 20 years.  Don Stenberg has run for the Senate twice. John Bruning has run for the Senate twice. It shows you there is a utilization of the office as a stepping stone. With that kind of a political atmosphere everything gets a little skewed. Are those opinions kind of slanted a little bit for a special interest group? Is the litigation grandstanding for fundraising opportunities as you look toward a Senate campaign?

What priorities and areas of interest would you emphasize if elected attorney general?

Eurek: First and foremost for me is consumer protection. We are in an age when the Internet and social media are exploding. Criminals are always opportunistic and fraudulent and are opportunistic. What I have seen is there has been some greater emphasis since Jon Bruning has been attorney general, but it has been more of a piggy back on national litigation (from other states). I would like us to take a greater lead in consumer protection and for our own citizens. It is in Nebraska. We need to pay attention.

Your opinion on the death penalty?

Eurek: When I ran in 1990 my position was there are heinous crimes for which the death penalty should be imposed but I have studied the issue since then.  The things that concern me are convictions on eyewitness testimony alone. Study after study has shown that is very unreliable. We now have DNA evidence that indicate we have made an improper conviction in many cases.  My view is we need to be very sure of the guilt and very careful how we impose it. There are times when I think I could be in favor of life imprisonment without parole. I still think there are crimes to protect police officers and just the heinous crimes, like the Norfolk robbery or the Ryan case in Falls City where there was torture and death, and of course as attorney general I have to enforce the laws as is there.

Which illegal drug or controlled substance is the greatest risk to Nebraska?

Eurek: If you talk to police officers, it’s regular prescription drugs. That was kind of shocking to me. The abuse, especially by youth, of regular prescription drugs, stealing pain medications and mixing them at parties, I think that is a bigger danger in Nebraska.

Nebraska law currently places a 20 week time limit on making abortion available to women. Does that need to be revisited?

Eurek: My view, my personal view, of abortion is that it is morally wrong. I also recognize that the Constitution provides a privacy right in the 9th Amendment and our Supreme Court has determined that privacy allows a woman to make a decision up until viability, so in that framework, it is settled law. I would be primarily an advocate for life so probably would advise this law could withstand scrutiny and if you pass it, it might withstand it.



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