A Lincoln business group quizzed the seven high-profile gubernatorial candidates on economic issues and then asked an interesting question: how do you differ from Gov. Dave Heineman?
The Lincoln Independent Business Association, known as LIBA, held a candidate forum with six Republican and one Democrat who want the job Heineman now holds, but must give up due to term limits.
The latest to enter the race, Republican Attorney General Jon Bruning, says he respects Heineman.
“I’ve worked very closely with the governor,” Bruning says. “I expect to be similar to Dave Heineman. I’m not going to try to be Dave Heineman, if you choose me as governor, but I expect to try to keep it going down the same path. We have a very well-run state.”
As for Republican state Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, he sees a lot to like in the current governor.
“So to the question of where would you differ from Dave Heineman, I wouldn’t differ at all,” McCoy responds. “Because I don’t believe that there’s any candidate up here at this table who has stood closer with Gov. Heineman as an ally for making the quality of life in Nebraska better than I have.”
Omaha businessman Pete Rickets, a Republican, sees a difference in style. He says he tries to build consensus in running his business.
“If you talk about how do I differ from Gov. Heineman, it’s that business background and working collaboratively with people,” Ricketts says. “I think Gov. Heineman takes more of a top-down approach.”
A close associate of the governor, Republican Omaha businessman Bryan Slone, also sees more difference in style than substance.
“The difference between Gov. Heineman and me? Not necessarily on policy, but how we approach things,” Slone says.
State Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege, a Republican, says he sees the state’s water use as much more critical than Heineman.
“To do something about that costs money,” says Carlson, who created the Water Sustainability Task Force last session. “We’ve got to have projects so that we are better able to hold excess flow that comes in from the west and the north, put it in a position where it can benefit the entire state.”
Experience makes a difference, according to state Auditor Mike Foley, a Republican.
“I am different. I just am. Because of my life experiences. On policy matters, we’re very, very similar, but our life experiences are different and my life experiences from all prior governors is very different, because we’ve never had a governor who previously served as state Auditor,” Foley points out.
The lone Democrat at the forum would be most likely to point our major differences with Heineman, a Republican.
Former Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director Chuck Hassebrook says his approach to illegal immigration would differ greatly from the current governor.
“I would take a less punitive approach, particularly toward young people who were brought here illegally as children and who grew up here,” Hassebrook says. “I think it’s Nebraska and Arizona the only two states in the union to deny them driver’s licenses.”
Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this report.