o-governor

Is there anything more exciting than gubernatorial elections? The thrill of debates by amateur politicians, the potential for scandal and the direct political consequences to the voter in their home state make these elections far more exciting than presidential ones, even if they get less sensational media coverage. 

Perhaps gubernatorial elections are only riveting for a select few, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t without intrigue, and they definitely aren’t without significance. Gubernatorial elections are some of the most important elections for everyday individuals.

On Nov. 8, Election Day, Nebraskans from across the state will vote a new governor into office. So far, there are several Republican candidates and one Democratic candidate. With the filing deadline less than a week away, there isn’t expected to be much change in who is running. 

According to Ballotpedia, there are currently eight individuals vying for the Republican Party’s nomination for the governorship. Gov. Pete Ricketts is not one of them, as he has reached his term limit. After the primary on May 10, it’ll be down to one candidate from each party.

Knowing those details may seem unnecessary, but they are the particulars upon which the election is built. Besides city officials and school board elections — if you’re a parent or student in the district — gubernatorial elections have the most significant impact on individuals. 

State legislation is more likely than federal legislation to make significant changes to how you’re taxed and where your tax dollars are spent. The laws they pass can make a small or large difference in how your day-to-day life works. For example, in Nebraska, there is an ongoing effort to get the legalization of medical marijuana on the ballot. If that push were to succeed — and Nebraskans voted for legalization — the state government would then be responsible for drawing up legislation. 

The governor of Nebraska is the head of the state government. They also hold the power to veto legislation. They could single-handedly prevent legislation from becoming law. A decision they make could very easily have an impact on your life, however consequential.

Not only is the governor the head of the state government, but, in many ways, they are also the face of Nebraska. They represent and lead “The Cornhusker State” at a national level. 

Gov. Pete Ricketts has reached his term limit. By January 2023, there will be a new head of state. Introducing all of the current candidates in a crowded field is impractical and largely unnecessary. Likely, whoever is at the top of the pack now will be the one with their name next to the Republican Party label on the ballot.

Right now, UNL Board of Regents member Jim Pillen and agribusinessman Charles Herbster are the front-runners in the Republican race, leading in fundraising. Pillen, who was outspoken against the University’s racial equity plan, received key endorsements from Gov. Ricketts and former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. However, Herbster received the coveted endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

With no polls conducted yet, fundraising is the best way to assess how candidates are performing thus far. Pillen out-fundraised Herbster, who has been primarily self-funded. 

The other person of note is Nebraska State Sen. Carol Blood, the only declared Democratic candidate. As of early February, Blood had fundraised less than 2% of Pillen’s total fundraising. Considering Ricketts won re-election in 2018 with nearly 60% of the vote against a Republican-turned-Democrat opponent, it is unlikely that Sen. Blood will be able to put up a significant fight against her Republican counterpart. However, as the main opposition after the primaries, it is still important to stay up to date on her campaign.

There are other skirmishes, opinions and candidates that I did not go into in this article. I encourage you to look into them and continue to stay informed about the upcoming election. A great place to start are the candidates’ own websites. Googling “[candidate name]’s campaign” will usually allow you to find their site. There, you can begin to read up on each candidate. However, don’t take everything there as the ultimate truth — they are trying to convince you to vote for them. 

Look up the candidate’s name and scroll through Google’s news tab. See what local publications have had to say about the candidate and their campaign. Did the candidate make any public statements recently? What have they said about their running mates? This article from 1011 is a great place to start. Looking at things like that will help you get a better sense of governor hopefuls than carefully designed campaign sites. 

Finally, watch Nebraska Public Radio’s debate between the candidates on March 24. Check the news regularly for any other debates that may take place. Here, you can see how candidates will react under pressure and how their positions hold up when scrutinized.

As an out-of-state student without residency, I can’t even vote in Nebraska elections. If you’re the same as me — or can’t vote for another reason — I understand the urge to shrug and dismiss the whole topic because it doesn’t have any relevance to you. But, you will still be living in the state until you finish school. 

Who is governor here can still affect you, so you should stay informed. You can also begin researching candidates in your own state. Start with the resources I mentioned above, websites like Ballotpedia or reading articles from your hometown newspaper. You have your own ballot to fill out come November. Don’t let your vote be wasted.

The closer to home elections are, the more they should matter to you. So, in addition to catching up with Nebraska’s gubernatorial race, check out the article on the most recent debate between student government election groups and stay informed about elections right here on our campus. These are the candidates that may be representing you. Voting and staying informed are the best ways to ensure you are represented how you please, no matter the election.

Megan Buffington is a freshman journalism major. Reach her at meganbuffington@dailynebraskan.com.