Election 2022: Three Republican gubernatorial candidates participate in forum

Decision 2022: Greater Omaha Chamber GOP forum
Decision 2022: Greater Omaha Chamber GOP forum
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:05 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 7:27 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The primary election is just a month away. Wednesday, three Republicans who want to be Nebraska governor took part in a forum.

Based on a formula, the Greater Omaha Chamber invited four Republican candidates for Nebraska governor to the event, but only three showed up at UNO’s Scott Conference Center. Jim Pillen, as he has done before, declined to participate. His campaign said last month: “Debates are often just political theater.”

Charles Herbster, Theresa Thibodeau, and Brett Lindstrom covered a lot of ground in the 90-minute forum. Questions for candidates ranged from education to tax code to racial injustice.

“America is in trouble,” said Charles Herbster. “If America is in trouble, Nebraska is in trouble. We as a country have lost the moral compass of what made America great. And that is God, flag and family.”

“Teaching children how to think, not what to think is important,” said Theresa Thibodeau. “That is how children grow up to be self-starters, entrepreneurs and how they are motivated in life -- teaching them how to get through situations.”

“Part of bridging the gap as Governor is realizing you have to represent everyone,” said Brett Lindstrom. “We hear Nebraska isn’t for everyone. That’s not really a good step forward when you have 60,000 unfilled jobs -- along with the diversity, inclusion and equity side of things. we need to make sure we’re welcoming to all people.”

It wasn’t a debate. The candidates took questions from the moderator and did not address each other.

“Nebraska - don’t let the big money thrown around waste your vote,” said Thibodeau.

Charles Herbster explained how he would slap a big logo on everything made in Nebraska for all the world to see.

“Anything we make in Nebraska will have a beautiful silhouette on it,” said Herbster. “Every piece. Nebraska is about branding and marketing. Someone said, ‘Herbster is nothing but a salesman.’ Let me share something with you -- the best governor a state can have is a salesman. I’m proud to be a salesman. I’m the only one on the stage that can sell the greatness of Nebraska.”

Brett Lindstrom asked how can Nebraska grow if the state doesn’t open its doors to everyone?

“We need to be welcoming to all people and part of that is to walk the walk and the brand we send as a state,” said Lindstrom. “We need to make sure to grow Nebraska and it won’t be done organically -- as I’m doing my job with 3 kids -- it has to draw people to Nebraska and that includes people of color and different backgrounds. I think of this race as what separates me from the others -- experience. 8 years in the legislature working with people of different backgrounds.”

Theresa Thibodeau worries that many voters simply aren’t heard. “The salvation of our state lies with our citizens. I have reached out to the government and I haven’t been heard either. I get what everyday Nebraskans are going through. It is my intention as governor to return the power back to the people of the great state.”

The issue of Nebraska’s overcrowded prisons also came up. Earlier on Wednesday, the legislature rejected a criminal justice reform bill. Two of the three candidates believe building a new prison is the answer.

Herbster: “When we build a prison and we will in the future, we have to make sure where it’s located so we have a workforce.”

Thibodeau: “The reality of the situation is we have no choice than to build another prison. There simply aren’t enough true non-violent drug offenders that we could release to help with the overcrowding.”

Lindstrom: “Never say never, but at this time I’m not in favor of doing the $270-m leap. We need to refocus our efforts on the upfront and address the long-term issues that have existed the last couple of decades.”

There are more than 4 Republican candidates on the ballot. The Greater Omaha Chamber used a number of factors such as polling data, campaign financing and viability for the nomination in order to determine who was invited to the forum.

The Nebraska primary is May 10.

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