COZAD, Neb. – Candidates for the five contested county elections were on full display Tuesday evening at a Candidate Forum at Cozad’s Wilson Public Library sponsored by Farm Bureau of Dawson, Custer and Buffalo Counties.
The conference room at the library was filled to capacity, with about 100 residents attending the event. The forum allowed candidates to make their case for office, but moved at a quick pace.
“This has felt like speed dating,” said State Legislature for District 36 Candidate Luis Sotelo toward the end of a question-and-answer format of the forum. At times, it seemed as though the candidates had more to say and not enough time to say it.
Sotelo, who works as a college-planning specialist with EducationQuest, spoke of his background and passion for education often during his speech and in response to questions.
“I am a teacher, not a politician. My calling is to serve,” said Sotelo. He’s a former teacher with Teach for America, a national teacher corps of college graduates who commit to teaching in low income or rural public schools.
Asked what were some critic issues facing the 36th legislative district, Sotelo said there was a huge need to for more early learning access in the district.
“Seventy percent of students are not going to preschool in our district,” Sotelo said.
Longtime Gothenburg Banker and former farmer Matt Williams is also running for the District 36 Legislative Seat being vacated by Sen. John Wightman’s retirement. He said that after asking bankers to step up across the country with the American Bankers Association, he decided to step up and run himself. He also served with the Nebraska Bankers Association.
“The three things I hear from voters is: We want someone with a strong background in Agriculture, someone with experience in business and someone with proven leadership skills. That’s what I bring to the table,” Williams said.
He continued that the two critical issues facing Nebraska and the 36th Legislative District were water issues and the need to reform the tax structure.
“We do not have a sustainable water policy in our state,” Williams said. “Our tax structure make Nebraska not as competitive as we need to be in recruiting business,” Williams.
One area of clear contrast between the candidates was when they were asked about their views on Common Core, a new national education standards adopted by many states.
“I don’t care what we call it. What I care about is that we provide rigorous education, so when (students) graduate they can go into workforce or graduate college,” Sotelo said.
“Around the district, there is significant fear of Common Core, where someone else is telling our schools what they have to do to educate our kids, that doesn’t feel right,” Williams said.