Eyebrows Rise When Jim Pillen Says Nebraska Roads “Not So Bad” During Debate | Government-and-politics


Paul Hammel Omaha World-Herald

Is it a political blunder to describe Nebraska’s road condition and broadband coverage as “not that bad?” “


The question sparked debate in some political circles on Monday after Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen made the comment during a debate on Sunday. He was responding to a question about what Nebraska should do with the $ 2.5 billion it expects to receive from the infrastructure bill recently enacted by President Joe Biden.

During the Nebraska Farm Bureau policy forum, Pillen and five other GOP gubernatorial candidates were asked how they would use the money coming to Nebraska to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

Pillen, who is a member of the board of regents at the University of Nebraska, responded that while there were “great opportunities” for spending on roads and broadband Internet service, federal spending was “out of control.” . He described the infrastructure bill in three words: “big, government, socialism”.

“Could we use the money for roads and broadband? Maybe, but not today; they’re not that bad,” Pillen said. “We have to wait for the Conservatives to take power back, and then we give the money and use it properly.”

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Some, including Pillen’s main opponent Charles Herbster, seized the comment, saying it was a mistake to describe Nebraska’s road network and broadband coverage as “not so bad.”

The comment was compared to a political blunder in 1988, while the senator. David Karnes said Nebraska needs “fewer farmers”. The remark led to the defeat of Karnes and the victory of Democrat Bob Kerrey.

But Pillen’s campaign officials said the “not-so-bad” comment was taken out of context and really made the case for overspending.

“The Nebraskans know there is no such thing as a free lunch,” Pillen said in a statement Monday. “Joe Biden’s socialist spending madness comes at a price: more inflation, more crippling debt for future generations, and more control of the big government.”

Pillen said he supported additional spending on Nebraska highways by issuing bonds and supported broadband expansion.

During Sunday’s debate, Herbster did not say how he would use infrastructure money, but said “America is broke” and the level of spending in Washington cannot continue.

Herbster said on Twitter on Monday that “now more than ever” it is essential that Nebraska improves its roads and broadband services. He then said in a statement that “whether you like it or not,” the federal government was sending infrastructure money to Nebraska and “critical infrastructure investments” were needed.

Asked about Pillen’s comment, University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professor John Hibbing said that didn’t seem like the wisest answer, given Nebraskans’ support for highway improvements. and Internet service, “especially if the authorities pay for it.”

But Hibbing said he did not view the comment as a campaign killer. He said it was likely an effort to play with former President Donald Trump and his supporters, who called Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill “traitors.”

Two of the Republicans in the debate, State Senators Brett Lindstrom and Breland Ridenour, both from Omaha, said Nebraska’s roads and broadband services needed to be improved. Another candidate, former State Senator Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha, said she wanted improvements that help farmers, but tax relief was her top priority. Michael Connely of York said the US government cannot continue to print money.

The sponsor of Sunday’s debate, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, supported passage of the infrastructure bill. Two members of the all-Nebraska GOP congressional delegation, Senator Deb Fischer and Representative Don Bacon, voted for the measure. They both drew condemnation from some Republicans for the move.


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