In running for governor, state Sen. Carol Blood hopes to find common ground and end toxic partisan polarization.
The Democrat recently visited Hastings — where she lived for 16 years while growing up — during one of her “Blood Drives.” She has represented District 3 and the Bellevue and Papillion areas in Sarpy County in the Nebraska Legislature since 2016.
“Even though your voting base, your three largest counties are on the east end of the state, when you are governor you represent all Nebraskans,” she said during a visit to the Hastings Tribune. “I thought it was really important that we get out here and let people know that I hear them. So this won’t be my last visit to Hastings, it won’t be my last visit to Scottsbluff, Grand Island, North Platte, Ogallala.”
Her parents are from Clay County. While Blood’s family lived in the Hastings area, her father, Harry Vacek, farmed and managed Frontier Airlines in Hastings.
Blood’s campaign platforms include “Prosperity for all Nebraskans” addressing property taxes and attracting and retaining talent — especially those in the age 18-to-34 demographic; maintaining public safety and improving public health; investing in Nebraska’s infrastructure; and encouraging education.
She’s had a hand in crafting more than 30 bills that passed with full bipartisan support in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, including several bills that overrode a veto from the governor.
That includes LB108 in 2021, which expands the qualifications of families that are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to 165% of the federal poverty level. Previously, families with a gross income of 130% or less of the federal poverty level were eligible.
LB108 originally passed 33-11, and then received a 30-19 vote to override a veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Blood said she is more than the partisan D in front of her name.
“There are still people in Nebraska, and this message resonates with them, that are sick of the ‘us versus them’ narrative and don’t necessarily care about what party you come from as much as what you can do for them and how you can make Nebraska better,” she said. “When people are resistant because I am a Democrat, every time I run I open the dialogue. ‘You tell me what issues are important to you and I’ll tell you what I believe of those issues.’ Usually, not always, we find middle ground. In my district I can’t win without Republican votes.”
The stereotype is that Democrats want to raise taxes.
“I voted for the biggest property tax relief bill in the history of Nebraska,” Blood said. “Supposedly (Democrats) don’t support law enforcement. Every law enforcement entity on my end of the state endorsed my last campaign, because I not only support law enforcement, I support all first responders.”
She helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for first responders through her involvement on the Bellevue Public Safety Foundation.
“I walk the walk, I talk the talk, even when it is uncomfortable,” she said.
The first race Blood won for public office was a citywide race for the Bellevue City Council, a community with more Republicans than Democrats.
In a seven-candidate primary, Blood was one of two Democrats.
“I was told I would never win, but I knocked on the doors and I talked to people and I showed them solutions to long-standing problems,” she said.
She cited construction of a new police station by renovating an existing property, which she said saved taxpayers $20 million.
“I always tell people the truth, even when it’s not pretty and they don’t like it and they hate my guts for it,” she said. “I don’t do political theater, and I don’t pander to the masses. People saw that and I worked hard, not just as an elected official but as a volunteer in my community. So when I ran for re-election I won again. I got more votes than our Republican mayor, which I think is very telling. So it isn’t about party. It’s about character and what you can accomplish hearing people out.”
She defeated Republican incumbent Tommy Garrett for her legislative seat in 2016.
As governor, Blood plans to address mandates for local governments that have an onerous effect on property taxes for the last 20 years.
“Here, you have the state doing all these grandiose things they think are going to rescue property taxes,” she said. “You can never solve property taxes until you address the systemic issues — the state created by the way — to make sure the counties, municipalities and schools are whole. That includes fully funding the schools, which the state does not do and why your property taxes are high.”
She plans to bring a bill forward to the Legislature in January stating the state can’t push forward a mandate unless it’s shown how the bill would be paid for.
“The list is really long of how we’ve wasted taxpayer dollars,” she said.
She takes issue with the proposed consumption tax that would apply to the purchase of services and new goods.
“It’s supposedly going to solve all your property tax issues,” she said. “If you put pen to paper and do the math, in three to four years, the state of Nebraska, if we go under a consumption tax and totally change our tax system, will be $4 billion in the hole. How will that help taxpayers if we can’t run government?”
She said a consumption tax would lead to border bleed into neighboring states without such a tax.
Blood doesn’t remember a partisan divide as she was growing up in rural Nebraska.
The narrative changed about 20 years ago, she said.
“I’m asking the people who are supporting me to get back to listening first, to understand, to extend grace and to hear where people are coming from so you could understand why they believe what they believe,” she said. “It is not your job to fix them or to change their mind. It’s your job to listen to them, so you can then work together to weave community and solve problems. That is exactly why I am running, because when I saw the other candidates and what they said they stood for they were all playing out of the same playbook, which was fear and misinformation and creating boogeymen and quite frankly putting out pretend problems that don’t exist, so you ignore the real problems that aren’t being addressed here in Nebraska that are actually screwing over taxpayers.”