2012 Recommended Candidates

October 3, 2012

News Release

Elections Affect Education

NSEA Recommended Candidates


Elected officials make decisions every day regarding education – from class size and curriculum to the length of the school day and year, to the salary paid to teachers.


“I want to encourage everyone to vote but especially education employees,” said NSEA President Nancy Fulton. “Our decisions at the ballot box affect how well we serve children. And when we choose to participate in the process, we also set an example for our students.”


NSEA-recommended candidates were interviewed by local, bi-partisan teams of NSEA members. Those teams then selected the candidate that best exemplified NSEA’s stance on education issues. Those candidates and comments from the local recommendation committee members are presented here.


Legislature, District 1:  Jerry Joy, Stella

Jerry Joy, NSEA’s recommended candidate four years ago, earned the nod of NSEA’s local interview committee. Joy has a passion for education. He is a former Peru State College administrator, teacher and football coach.


Legislature, District 2:  Sen. Paul Lambert, Plattsmouth

Sen. Lambert was appointed by Gov. Dave Heineman when Sen. Dave Pankonin resigned last year. Lambert has also served as a mayor of Plattsmouth and city council member. NSEA’s local recommendation committee found Sen. Lambert to be honest and forthright, approachable and a good listener who follows up with questions about issues.  


Legislature, District 3: Sen. Scott Price, Bellevue

Sen. Price receives the recommendation with four years of experience under his belt.  His years in the Air Force reaffirm his commitment to serving the people around him.  He plans to continue to fight to end the laws that place an unfair burden on Sarpy County taxpayers and ensure that Sarpy County school districts receive fair funding.


Legislature, District 5:  Sen. Heath Mello, Omaha

Sen. Mello places a high value on public education, and is a strong supporter of issues affecting teachers, including collective bargaining and a sound retirement system. Sen. Mello’s “big picture” view has served legislators and the state well. In just four short years in the Legislature, Mello has become a floor leader and he serves in vital roles on both the Appropriations and Retirement committees.


Legislature, District 7:  Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, Omaha

A former research analyst for the Legislature, Sen. Nordquist’s leadership and knowledge of retirement issues has served the state well. Nordquist is articulate, passionate and a coalition builder. He is the chair of the Legislature’s Retirement Committee and also serves on the Appropriations Committee.


Legislature, District 9:  Sara Howard, Omaha

Earning unanimous support from the interview team, Howard was viewed as having a solid understanding of the role of business and policymakers in education. She is intelligent, approachable and has a significant commitment to her district. Howard is a strong supporter of public schools and of collective bargaining.


Legislature, District 11:  Sen. Brenda Council, Omaha

Four years ago, Sen. Council was recommended because of her proven political experience and because she is a devout supporter of education. Sen. Council is an articulate spokeswoman and stalwart champion for education, and has shown leadership on a number of issues key to educators, including state aid and voting rights.


Legislature, District 13:  Sen. Tanya Cook, Omaha

Sen. Cook was recommended four years ago, and earns the nod for a second term. Her strength is her knowledge of urban issues and public schools. She supports improving teacher salaries, ensuring a strong school employees’ retirement plan and is an advocate for quality public education.


Legislature, District 15:  Mike Petersen, Fremont

Mike Petersen does his research, has innovative ideas, is driven, and open to new ideas. Above all, he holds public education-centered values, and is willing to listen. Petersen is viewed as well in-touch with the needs of public schools and public school employees.


Legislature, District 17:  Van Phillips, South Sioux City

A retired educator and school superintendent, Van Phillips has “a fire inside to make legislation fair for students and public schools,” according to the bi-partisan team that interviewed him. Phillips supports legislation to help provide a safe and orderly classroom and is an advocate for teachers.


Legislature, District 19:  Jim Scheer, Norfolk

Currently serving on the State Board of Education, Jim Scheer wants to take the expertise he has gained from that service into a new arena. Scheer is a relationship builder, has valuable experience and knows key players in the Legislature.


Legislature, District 21:  Sen. Ken Haar, Malcolm

A former Lincoln city councilman and a former teacher, Sen. Haar is very supportive of teachers and the work they do. Intelligent and articulate, Haar brings many skills to his work as a state senator and is an outspoken advocate for educators and public schools. His work in the 2010 session of the Legislature tied revenues from wind and solar energies projects on state school lands to additional compensation for teachers.


Legislature, District 23:  Vern Barrett, Ceresco

The local interview team was impressed with Barrett’s intelligence, presentation and hard work. A retired leadership development specialist for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service, Barrett has worked with numerous rural communities and is a strong supporter of public education.


Legislature, District 25: Sen. Kathy Campbell, Lincoln


Sen. Campbell, a former teacher and former member of the Lancaster County Board, is completing her first term in the legislature and is widely known as a friend to children and public schools. She opposes vouchers and continues to be concerned about teachers having time to teach, especially in view of the assessment requirements they are asked to meet.


Legislature, District 27:  Sen. Colby Coash, Lincoln

Seeking a second term, Sen. Coash has a background in child advocacy and proved to be a friend to education during his first term. He meets on a regular basis with teachers and believes the state and education is better off because of collective bargaining.


Legislature District 29:  Kate Bolz, Lincoln

Kate Bolz is a strong advocate for education.  Bolz understands the need to reduce dependency on higher property taxes and find a more sensible solution to better funded education.  The interview team said she carries a “strong sense of responsibility to constituents.”


Legislature, District 31:  Rick Kolowski, Omaha

As the founding principal at Millard West High School, Rick Kolowski has great name recognition, and is articulate and passionate about education. He values the education profession, and even after retiring has focused on education and improving schools for all students.  His past roles with education have made him an advocate for more competitive teacher salaries.


Legislature, District 35:  Sen. Mike Gloor, Grand Island  

A former hospital administrator, U.S. Air Force veteran and community activist, Sen. Gloor is well-respected in his district and the Legislature. Soft-spoken, Gloor is thoughtful and his remarks, when offered, carry a great deal of weight. Gloor understands the needs of educators, and cares greatly about his community.


Legislature, District 37: Sen. Galen Hadley, Kearney

Elected in 2008, Sen. Hadley has been a strong supporter of public education during his first term. He serves on the Legislature’s Revenue Committee and was a staunch public school ally in the battle for adequate state aid during the recently concluded session. He knows the Legislature and the issues well, and would serve the district well with another term.


Legislature, District 39:  Judy Domina, Elkhorn

Judy Domina has years of experience as an educator and as an advocate for children in her work with non-profit agencies that dealt with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Domina is knowledgeable, articulate and a proud supporter of public education.


Legislature, District 41:  Sen. Kate Sullivan, Cedar Rapids

A former school board member and the mother of a teacher, Sen. Sullivan has completed her first term in the Legislature with aplomb. Her leadership came to the fore on the Keystone XL pipeline issue, where her efforts helped move the pipeline path away from the ecologically fragile Sandhills. Sullivan understands the needs and issues surrounding public education.


Legislature, District 43:  Al Davis, Hyannis

Al Davis is a third generation Nebraskan who has helped develop the Panhandle. He will be an articulate spokesperson for education as a state senator.  Davis is a proponent of ensuring all school districts in Nebraska receive proper funding and will advocate for smaller school districts to receive enough state funding, without having to continually increase property taxes.


Legislature, District 45: Sue Crawford and Richard Carter, Bellevue

The interview team chose to recommend two candidates. Richard Carter is knowledgeable about education needs. A former educator, he feels too much standardized testing is used in the average school year.


Sue Crawford is a professor at Creighton University and has worked with a variety of community groups on public policy issues. She is a strong supporter of education with good listening skills and a willingness to learn.


State Board of Education District 1: Lillie Larsen, Lincoln

Lillie Larsen has experience as a teacher and a school board member in Lincoln. She is well-versed in current legislative issues. She has knowledge and understanding of CORE standards and why Nebraska tabled the discussion on that issue. She does not see “punitive” measures as a way to improve schools and would rather provide “positive increments of improvement for schools that are struggling.”


State Board of Education District 3:  Rachel Wise, Oakland

Rachel Wise has experience in education at all levels: as a teacher, administrator, with local associations large and small, most recently working for Building Bright Futures, an Omaha organization aimed at improving academic performance and graduation rates. Articulate, passionate and knowledgeable, Wise is seen as an excellent advocate for public schools.


State Board of Education District 4:  Rebecca Valdez, Omaha

Well-known in the South Omaha community, Rebecca Valdez has completed her first term on the State Board of Education with excellent marks. A former teacher, she understands the need for quality education, supports public education and teachers, and is energetic, intelligent and articulate in her service.


Board of Regents District 4: Bob Whitehouse, Papillion

A former teacher and high school principal, Bob Whitehouse is completing his first term on the Board of Regents. Well-respected and well-liked, Whitehouse is articulate and is a strong supporter of collective bargaining and academic freedom. He also favors a strong working relationship between K-12 public schools and the university system.


Board of Regents District 8:  Ann Ferlic Ashford, Omaha

An attorney with 25 years of senior management in human resources development, Ashford supports collective bargaining and academic freedom. She is familiar with the Nebraska P-16 Initiative and its relationship to higher education. She understands the value and potential of online education, but emphasizes that quality and academic integrity are essential, both in content and needed personnel.


U.S. Senate:  Bob Kerrey

A bi-partisan team composed of NSEA members from each of the state’s three congressional districts agreed that former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey understands the importance of public education and is well-versed on the issues facing our public schools. He was candid in his remarks about the difficult decisions Congress will face in dealing with the federal deficit, and noted that the “accountability movement with its emphasis on quality and performance should be a force for good so long as we use multiple measures to evaluate student achievement and performance, the privacy of our teachers is protected, and we do not fall into the trap of believing that only those things we can test are of importance to the student.”

Kerrey also said he believes the U.S. Secretary of Education “should not act as if he or she is superintendent of all American schools. He is a strong supporter of Title One funding; believes Pell grants should be indexed for inflation, since tuition has been rising faster than the rate of inflation; believes border security needs to be tightened, along with implementation of a package of tough immigration enforcement. He believes the Affordable Health Care Act needs modification rather than repeal.

“Among the most important things I would do for public education, as a U.S. Senator, is to work with Nebraska community leaders to help parents of newborns understand what they need to do to ensure that their child is ready for school. Teachers cannot and should not be expected to do the work of preparing students for school. A great teacher can inspire us, but only our parents can help us acquire the motivation to do the work necessary to succeed.”

The Republican candidate chose not to participate in the recommendation process.


U. S. Congress – 2nd District: John Ewing

A bi-partisan team composed of NSEA members from the state’s 2nd Congressional District interviewed John Ewing and said he clearly understands the importance of public education and is well-versed on the issues facing our public schools. Ewing currently serves as Douglas Co. Treasurer.


Ewing believes that all Americans should have “access to a world-class education and that our young people are competing internationally, so the U.S. needs to make sure that postsecondary education is affordable for all those who want to attend.”


Ewing supports investing in education as it provides both economic and social returns through the students who will make a contribution to society.  He supports early childhood education programs, and has a great respect for teachers, and says that education gave him the opportunities to be successful in life.


Ewing opposes vouchers.  He noted that close to 97 percent of students will be educated though our public schools and believes that we need to focus on how to improve the public school system. “Public education should be protected from privatization and we must make sure we’re not looking at making a dollar, but educating the child.”


Amendment 3:  NSEA Recommends Support

A vote FOR Amendment 3 would lengthen the time that state senators could serve from two to three consecutive 4-year terms.