Kids Quiz Candidates About Rural Issues
Growing up in small towns and returning to raise their families, Kate Sullivan and Brook Curtiss may be opponents on the ballot, but agree kids need to hear their stories.
Curtiss said, "Only solution I see is to provide opportunities."
"We want you back here," Sullivan responded.
Rural Nebraska is losing influence to the state's urban centers, even losing a seat in the state capitol.
With the state's population shifting, young voters want to know what lawmakers will do to
reverse the trend.
They wanted to know about paying for college, job opportunities in small towns, and the future of farming. Those questions were set against the backdrop of a legislative district that stretches nearly from Kearney to South Sioux City.
Sullivan, of Cedar Rapids is the incumbent and Curtiss the challenger in this district that takes
three hours to travel from end to end. And it had to expand adding towns like Plainview to keep enough people. And that's why Plainview's newspaper owner Brook Curtiss is in this race.
He said, "It's been a struggle and being new to the district is very hard. Once I got past Neligh, my sphere of influence was very small, so we've had to do a lot of groundwork door to door."
Curtiss is a small business owner and family man. Sullivan is a banker and family farmer who's respected for her focus on kids, education and economic development.
Sullivan said she's accomplished a lot in four years, but has more work to do. "More than anything, citizens of the 41st district need to know I want to be their senator for four years."
For an hour, Ord high school students quizzed the candidates about renewable energy, the keystone pipeline, budget, and more.
Curtiss told students, "I'm a very small government guy, limited government guy. I'm a reduce government spending guy. I don't believe in increasing taxes to increase the size of government."
On the budget, Sullivan said, "There was been in four years I was there virtually no new spending. Any piece of legislation if it had what we call a fiscal note, which meant what's the price tag along with the bill, it went nowhere."
A panel of students posed a number of questions, with occasional follow-ups from their government teacher. But it was clear they had done their homework.
Sullivan said, "Questions they developed were spot on. They dealt with issues the state legislature needs to be looking at."
"When you have kids that tell you they want to come back to these communities, it's a great way to connect with them, make sure they understand how important the issues are and I thought the format and kids were wonderful," Curtiss said.
The candidates vary on finer points of the issues, but Sullivan and Curtiss feel the kids are the winners for taking an interest in their future.
Ord senior Cody Drudik said, "Rural Nebraska keeps shrinking and urban areas keep growing, so we need to keep the economy growing here."
District 41 covers nine counties and includes towns like Litchfield, St. Paul, Ord, Albion, and Burwell.
They had to redraw the lines after the last census, as the Omaha area gained a seat, and rural areas lost a seat in the unicameral.