The candidates elected this November will play a huge role in shaping our future. And while the races at the top of the ballot are unquestionably important, the local races may very well have a bigger impact on Omahans’ day-to-day lives.

VOICE’s steering committee spent the past month digging into a handful of races at all levels of the ballot, and we are endorsing several candidates. Our VOICE-approved slate is below with a few bullets explaining why we endorse those candidates. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will post a more in-depth summary of each of these races.

We took this effort very seriously. We did our homework. Our research methodologies varied a bit for each race; they generally included face-to-face interviews, open-ended written response questions, phone interviews, discussions with others knowledgeable of the candidates and the issues, and independent research. We also refrained from making selections based upon party lines. Our endorsements are based solely on who we believe is be the best Omahan for the job.

We encourage you to vote for the following candidates:

Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors

See detailed endorsement summary here.

Sandy Dodge (D)

- Articulated a clear and in-depth understanding of the issues

- Demonstrated a vision for renewables, conservation and OPPD’s role in mitigating climate change

- Very supportive of OPPD’s programs to help its customers reduce energy consumption

- Energy challenge of the 21st century: meeting the growing demand for global energy demand while not ruining the earth’s atmosphere

George Mills (R)

- High focus on transparency and providing more information to the public

- Acknowledged that climate change is happening and that humans play a role

- Service as a Douglas County Commissioner shows great leadership capabilities

- Would strive to be an independent voice on the board, working for consensus and collaboration rather than “rubber stamping” decisions from management

Metropolitan Utilities District Board of Directors

See detailed endorsement summary here.

John McCollister (R)

- Demonstrated a clear understanding of MUD’s business model and upcoming challenges

- Advocated for a balanced approach (flat fee + cost cutting) to maintaining fiscal soundness

- Believes MUD’s conservation efforts are worthwhile and supportive of decreasing MUD’s carbon footprint and reducing pollution

- Greatest energy challenge of the 21st century: successful interface and balance between government intervention and the realities of the energy world

Jim Begley (D)

- Will be a strong proponent for MUD’s workforce

- Strongly advocated for better conservation efforts and a more meaningful social media presence

- Sees a clear and meaningful role for MUD to play in building compressed natural gas infrastructure

- Greatest energy challenge of the 21st century: weaning ourselves off of foreign oil and mitigating climate change

Omaha School Board

See detailed endorsement summary here.

Subdistrict 2: Freddie Gray (D)

- Qualifications: Served on OPS Board of Education since 2008; served on National School Boards Association/Council of Urban Boards of Education Racial Isolation Task Force, NE Association of School Boards, African Achievement Council, Douglas County Board of Health

- Priorities: To increase student achievement, Ms. Gray plans to partner with community stakeholders to address issues outside the scope of the school district’s work; accelerate quality early childhood education to help children arrive at school ready to learn; and recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and principals.

Subdistrict 4: Oscar Duran (NP)

- Qualifications: Various board membership; Creation of numerous youth driven community initiatives

- Priorities: Promote strengths-based development; Increase community collaboration; Emphasis on service learning

Subdistrict 8: No endorsement

Subdistrict 12: Patrick Bourne (D)

- Qualifications: Law Degree (Creighton University, 1997); Former State Senator (8th Legislative District)

- Priorities: Create strategic plan for OPS; Increase transparency; Increase graduation rates

University of Nebraska Board of Regents

See detailed endorsement summary here.

District 4: Bob Whitehouse (R)

- Has served on the Board of Regents since 2006 and was the 2011 Chairman

- Supports stem cell research

- Supports legislation and university policies that provide equal opportunity to students and staff including the Dream Act and the Employee +1 benefits policy

- Strong proponent for research across the University system as it relates to Nebraska

- Advocate for early childhood education

District 8: Ann Ferlic Ashford (R)

-Articulates clear ideas to connect graduates with jobs

-Supports stem cell research

-Supports legislation and university policies that provide equal opportunity to students and staff including the Dream Act and the Employee +1 benefits policy

-Prioritizes rising tuition rates as the most pressing issue facing students

-Committed to listening to her constituents

Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District

See detailed endorsement summary here.

Subdistrict 1: Scott Japp (R)

-Brings a rural perspective and experience in soil conservation and construction

-Believes a combination of levees and low impact development (LIDs) should be used for flood protection and more natural stormwater management

-Will not support the building of large dams because dams harm the stream environment and habitat

-Believes the NRD should not be be a funding source for developers and believes more procedures for public input and information sharing are needed, as well as more control of the meeting agenda by individual Board members

Subdistrict 3 – No endorsement; neither candidate responded to multiple requests.

Subdistrict 5: Rich Tesar (R)

-With twenty years of experience on the NRD Board, Tesar understands the issues the Board addresses.

-Believes water is our most important natural resource in Nebraska and advocates for flood protection and water quality as well as recreational access and trails for the public

-Wants to use the ‘newer’ concept of low impact development in some instances when it makes sense

-Tesar was appointed by the Governor to serve on the state’s Riparian Vegetation Protection Task Force, which worked to clear invasive species from the Platte River.

Subdistrict 7: Jim Powers (D)

-Powers is motivated to improve the recreational trails system in the district, and specifically motivated to improve trail maintenance and the maintenance process.

-He has a good sense for environmental issues the NRD Board needs to address and brings support for more natural methods of stormwater management such as bioretention areas, to the Board.

-Brings nearly 30 years of professional experience as an attorney to the Board, along with a passion for making a positive impact on the NRD Board.  His ability to easily understand contracts and funding mechanisms will provide the Board with an important perspective.

Subdistrict 9 – no endorsement

United States House of Representatives – District 2

See detailed endorsement summary here.

John Ewing (D)

-An experienced and dedicated public servant, a former Deputy Chief of Police for Omaha and current Douglas County Treasurer.

-As Douglas County Treasurer, Ewing broke through beaurocratic red tape to modernize that office increasing efficiency through the use of on-line tools. He accomplished this while coming in under final budget numbers every year he has served Douglas County.

-Ewing supports preservation of the current structure of Medicare while making principled changes to its administration to lower costs of the program that would support its solvency and its reliability.

-Ewing pledges to address federal budget deficit problems by focusing on waste and inefficiency and has proven as Douglas County Treasurer to concentrate on the real financial impact of changes, instead of their political impacts.

United States Senate

See detailed endorsement summary here.

Bob Kerrey (D)

-An experienced, principled candidate with a long track record of working in a bipartisan manner, most notably on the national 9/11 Commission.

-Nebraska-born and Nebraska-educated, Kerrey is a consistent supporter of civil rights for all Americans, which includes voting against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

-Proposes pragmatic solutions to address federal deficits with specific proposals to reduce federal budgets by 15 percent, impose a three-year pay freeze on federal cvilian workers and reduce the number of federal workers.

-Supports environmental policies that acknowledge and address the human contributions to climate change.

-”No one can tell Bob to do anything,” Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said of Bob Kerrey. “That’s a wonderful trait.”

President of the United States

Barack Obama (D)

President Barack Obama

- Decisive at a time when America was headed for the worst economic crash since the Great Depression

- Invested in green technology and innovation

- Values the unique role of government in protecting its citizens as evidenced by his public support of pay equity, GLBT civil rights and the Dream Act

- Works both sides of the issue and reaches across party lines

- Believes people are entitled to health care, food and housing