Herbster, Lindstrom, Thibodeau attend Republican primary gubernatorial forum; Pillen skips

Immigration, Education and racial equity among the topics addressed
Posted at 4:43 PM, Apr 06, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Three of the top GOP candidates shared their ideas for the future of Nebraska during a forum hosted by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

One early topic that is at the center of the Chamber’s concerns, is how to keep young people in Nebraska and ending brain drain in Nebraska.

All of the Republicans on stage said it starts with lowering taxes, including state senator Brett Lindstrom. He cited his work on tax cut legislation in the Unicameral and now wants to drop taxes for lower-income Nebraskans.

“When you think about how you’re going to target and recruit and maintain talent. We have to start with building a foundation. Building a foundation of how we can operate from and right now we’re not doing that,” said Lindstrom.

Businessman and current front-runner Charles Herbster said we need to get rid of the motto ‘Nebraska’s Not for Everyone’ and he can help bring business here.

“I’m probably the best that I can see on the stage or other people running to know how to sell the greatness of Nebraska,” said Herbster.

Part of the equation of lowering taxes, especially property taxes, is financing public schools.

The current model allows for millions of state funding for some schools and other schools rely on exclusively property taxes.

Former lawmaker Theresa Thibodeau, who polling shows is trailing badly said she would change that.

“That’s for lower taxes, better education for our students. I will make sure every student is funded the same amount,” said Thibodeau.

One major challenge the next governor will have to tackle is the state’s prison overpopulation crisis.

This is where the candidates drew a bit of a difference, with Thibodeau and Herbster saying we need a $270 million prison to replace the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

“First of all when we build a prison and we will have to sometime in the future. There’s no question about that we have to make sure it’s located in the right location,” said Herbster.

Senator Brett Lindstrom, whose campaign has picked up momentum of late wants to focus on expanding probation and drug courts and is hesitant about a new prison.

“Never say never but at this time I’m not in support of doing the $270 million leap,” said Lindstrom.

Thibodeau also said she would not be supportive of a bill debated Thursday in Lincoln that aimed at reducing the population in Nebraska prisons with sentencing reforms.

“I will also not allow ant criminal justice reform to happen just to open beds,” she said.

The polarizing topic of Critical Race Theory came up and the candidates' answers differed.

Thibodeau and Herbster said we need to ensure it’s not talked about in schools, while Lindstrom focused his answer on ensuring the state is welcoming to all.

“Critical Race Theory is when you’re teaching the things that are wrong with America. We need to go back in our school systems teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, prayer and the flag salute and what made America great,” said Herbster.

Lindstrom largely avoided the direct question.

“We need to make sure we’re welcoming to all people and I think part of that is we need to be walking the walk and the message that we send and the brand that we send as a state,” said Linstrom.

There was one top Republican candidate that was not at the forum that’s NU Regent Jim Pillen. He has largely not participated in debates and forums so far at this point in the campaign.

3 News Now Reporter Jon Kipper was at the forum and provided a play-by-play of the candidate's responses on Twitter, which you can see below.

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