In 2014, Nebraskans will elect a new governor, and if you were to follow the traditional red state/blue state conventional wisdom, it would look like a Republican candidate’s biggest worry will be not the Democrat challenger, but the other four primary candidates who are vying for the most conservative record on the ballot.
A 2012 Gallup poll had Nebraska tied with Arkansas for the ninth most conservative station in the nation. In that poll, 45 percent of responders identified themselves as conservative.
However, as consistently conservative as Nebraska is, there have been plenty of examples where Nebraskans have went not necessarily blue, but definitely maroon at the ballot box. In 2008, the state split its electoral vote, giving one vote to President Obama (the first time in 44 years that Nebraska awarded any electoral votes to a Democrat candidate). Before that, in the 1970’s up until the last decade, the office of governor and/or senator has been occupied by democrats such as Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey.
State Sen. Annette Dubas hopes to add her name to the list of Nebraska Democrat governors. She is competing against former UNL Board of Regents member Chuck Hassebrook. After a fundraising event at the Dundee Dell on November 5, Dubas said campaigning as a Democrat is probably harder than it was 20 years ago, but cited her reelection as state senator in District 34 as proof she could win in a conservative area. In 2010, she was elected with more than 78 percent of the vote in her district.
Dubas was born in Omaha and moved to Fullerton when she was 16. She served on the Fullerton School Board for a decade and in 2006, she was elected to the state Legislature.
Dubas said she’s focusing her campaign on property tax relief, workforce development, improving education, supporting renewable energy, and improving access to healthcare. Her approach to each will likely give her the support as well as the ire of “straight down the party line” Democrats and Republicans. For example, she supports Medicaid expansion.
“All of our hospitals struggle to keep their doors open, but when you get out into the rural areas – those critical access hospitals – without Medicaid expansion, it’s going to be really difficult to keep their doors open.”
Dubas also opposed Gov. Dave Heineman’s refusal to set up a state exchange for the Affordable Care Act. She believed if the state set up its own exchange, it could have been more catered to the specific health concerns of Nebraskans.
“But since we didn’t go that route, I think it’s up to the governor to make sure the exchange that is in place is working as best as it can,” Dubas said.
On the conservative side, Dubas was awarded an ‘A’ rating by the National Rifle Association in 2010. In 2010, Dubas also co-sponsored a bill that prevented abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. In 2009, Dubas voted in favor of a bill that required an ultrasound be performed before an abortion. She identifies herself as “consistently pro-life – from conception to natural death,” but believes in providing easy access to contraception and supporting children through adulthood.
“For me, it’s about so much more than just making sure the child is born,” Dubas said.
“It’s what we are willing to do to make sure the child has a chance in life and supporting those issues that are important to children and family. Good education, access to health care, good child care. Those are all things that I believe go along with being a pro-life candidate.”
In 2011, Dubas proposed Nebraska’s Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act, which was approved in the Legislature and signed by Gov. Heineman. Its origin was primarily as a response to the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. The act established an application process for any company wishing to place an oil pipeline in Nebraska and required the application be approved before eminent domain rights were granted. When asked if she supported the Keystone XL pipeline, she voiced criticisms toward TransCanada’s handling environmental and eminent domain concerns, but stopped short of opposing the pipeline.
“They’ve done some things to try to mitigate those concerns, but I don’t think they’re completely there yet,” Dubas said.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, Dubas’ family was profiled <i>The Lincoln Journal Star</i>. The article focused on Dubas’ relationship with her brother, Martin Steele. Martin came out to Annette in 1987. Before he came out, Martin repeatedly sought treatment for drug abuse and depression while he was coming to terms with his sexuality.
“Over time, I’ve gotten to know my brother better. He’s in a committed relationship with someone that I care very deeply about as well. Kurt (Smith) is a member of our family,” Dubas said.
Since 1987, Dubas said her stance on same-sex marriage has changed. She doesn’t remember how she voted in 2000 on LB 416, which prohibited same-sex unions in Nebraska. Dubas said if a new ballot or legislative-supported measure to repeal LB 416 was proposed, she would support it.
“It’s been an evolution, where I was at with my personal beliefs about marriage being between a man and a woman,” Dubas said.