Friday, November 03, 2006

Nebraska Needs a Compass - David Hahn for Governor

by Kyle Michaelis
Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Hahn kindly sat down with me for an hour-long interview this summer (a read I suggest for those who have the time), in which it was quite clear that he was laying the groundwork for a long-overdue debate about the direction this state is headed. Unfortunately, that debate never really took place because the people and the media did not demand it.

In my Post-Primary Gut-Check of the contest between Hahn and sitting-Governor Dave Heineman, I fretted:
To those Democrats who've long thought Heineman would be an easier match-up for their candidate, Hahn, I fear conventional wisdom may - again - have led us astray. Either Republican was going to come out of the primary the favorite; no one was under any illusions otherwise. The main difference is that Heineman comes out of this primary with "the big MO!" - momentum....

As the younger candidate (than Osborne), the more effective campaigner (than Osborne), and the incumbent, Heineman is going to be tough to beat. That becomes even clearer when you add in the fact that Heineman's clearly positioned himself with organized labor and the GOP's core constituencies as the heir to the Johanns legacy - a legacy of mostly inoffensive political opportunism that voters have thus far accepted without question.

The trick for Hahn - and it's a mighty one - will be convincing voters to break with the Johanns/Heineman status quo, which has hovered near a 70% approval rating for years, no matter how poor the state's economic performance or how burdensome its tax structure....

Hahn can win the battle of ideas, but he won't be able to win the election on vision alone. Voters have to take this campaign seriously first, and that requires their recognizing the stakes...Simply put, if voters go into that ballot box content with the last eight years of Republican leadership, Heineman comes out the winner...probably by a very wide margin.

Those who've met David Hahn and who have listened to his ideas know what sort of promise his campaign holds. He's offered a real agenda, driven by actual ideas for reform for which voters have been clamoring for decades.

In particular, his plan for reducing property taxes was the first legitimate effort a gubernatorial candidate has made to address that issue in recent memory. To it, Heineman offered no alternative. Nor will he if elected in his own right. Yet, despite all the talk we've heard about property taxes over the years, I guess we have to assume they aren't that big of a problem if voters are going to let Heineman get away with his dismissive, do-nothing approach.

The spending lid (Amendment 423 - JUST SAY NO!) is the other issue on which Hahn has drawn an unmistakeable distinction with Heineman. He was speaking clearly and on the level against the spending lid a full two months before sitting-governor Heineman could even make up his mind that one of the most direct threats to public health and public education this state has ever know was a bad idea. And, while in a position of power and pre-eminence, Heineman has still refused to take the lead against the spending lid in the manner that such an incredible threat to Nebraska's future deserves.

In the last two debates of the gubernatorial campaign, Hahn really did frame the choice before us on the ballot quite perfectly. Nebraska needs a compass (Hahn), not a weathervane (Heineman).

David Hahn knows who he is. He knows what he would do as Governor. He doesn't need to run ideas by a committee. He doesn't need polling data to tell him what's right and what's wrong. He doesn't need to consult anything but his own knowledge of Nebraska and his own conscience before taking a position and telling the people where he stands.

Now, if people really don't want bold leadership from the Governor's office, they should vote for Heineman. If people want to be pandered to - if they're happy with business as usual and leadership by soundbyte - Heineman is the man they want.

For better or worse, I guess we'll know on Tuesday.


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