Candidates lining up on 'correct' side of the issues

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Say what you will about Nebraska politicians, but one thing is sure -- they know how to take a hint.

Tuesday came more signs that candidates want to be sure they're on the right side of the hot-button issues that can turn the tide in an election, especially ones where voters have to squint to see the difference between stances taken by hopefuls on either side of the ballot.

Nebraskans for Local Schools noted Monday that Gov. Dave Heineman, Senate candidate Pete Rickets and 3rd District Congressional candidate Adrian Smith, at a gathering hosted by the Buffalo County Republican Party, had all signed petitions to re-establish Class I school districts in Nebraska.

Democrats Scott Kleeb, Smith's 3rd District opponent, and Sen. Ben Nelson have also signed the same petition. Nelson also signed a proposed constitutional amendment to require a vote of district residents before schools are consolidated.

The "green petition" would re-establish Class I and other school districts, giving them the same boundaries, authority, assets and liabilities as in November 2005, before the Nebraska Department of Education issued dissolution orders.

Voters will have a chance this fall to repeal forced consolidation bill LB126, which Smith opposed in the Legislature.

It wasn't lost on the candidates that Congressman Tom Osborne, in the process of losing a bid for governor, refused to sign pro-Class I petitions, and suggested that some of the schools exist for racial purposes.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Ben Nelson reiterated that while he preferred a states' rights approach, he supported a federal measure that would define marriage as a covenant between people of different sexes.

While he said he thinks states should have the right to determine what constitutes a marital union, it hasn't always worked out that way.

"The courts have overturned the will of the people at the state level," he told the Associated Press, so a federal law -- in this case a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment -- is necessary to ensure that the people's wishes are reflected by their government.

That's true. Forty-five of the 50 states have acted to define traditional marriage in ways that would bar same-sex marriage -- 19 with constitutional amendments and 26 with statutes.

In Nebraska, 70 percent of voters approved a state amendment in 2000, but U.S. District Judge Joseph Batallion ruled a year ago that the measure was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process.

Certainly there are other more pressing issues facing Nebraska and the United States -- the War in Iraq, gasoline over $3 a gallon and the water shortage come to mind.

But major candidates running for office this year seem to have discovered that Nebraska voters tend to take the longer view.

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