NORFOLK — There will be a new senator representing District 22 in 2019.
Doug Oertwich of rural Pilger and Francis Kuehler of Humphrey have both filed for the post that represents Platte County, parts of Colfax County and most of Stanton County. Senator Paul Schumacher is being term-limited out of office.
The starkest contrast between the two candidates is their backgrounds. Oertwich is a Republican farmer while Kuehler is Democrat and a Columbus firefighter. Oertwich says his farming background means he understands the ag economy and knows how to budget.
“We have to maintain the same lines,” Oertwich said. “When we’re short, we have to quit spending… and maybe not quit spending but make sure it’s spent in the right place.”
In addition to his work as a firefighter, Koehler was also a member of the Columbus School Board. He says he understands how money is spent in public sector.
“In my opinion, there was some money spent that was spent in the wrong way before I started on the school board and I watched out for that,” Kuehler said.
As far as issues go: Oertwich pointed to infrastructure as a hot topic. He wants to encourage finishing work on Highways 30 and 275.
He also mentioned housing as a concern and there are multiple rural housing initiatives currently in the legislature.
Koehler, drawing on his school board background, says he would fight to keep strong funding of public schools.
He’s also passionate about mental health services and would want to restore state funding to service providers. He said closing places like the Rainbow Center in Columbus doesn’t help those in need in the community.
Both candidates had opinions on the dominating topic of property taxes.
“If we grow the economy then we have more people paying the tax so we can take less burden on the property tax,” Oertwich said.
“That’s what the schools survive on, property tax,” Kuehler said. “Fund (the schools) better from the state level or the higher government level, you’re going to save it on property tax. Maybe you can cut some property tax that way.”
The top two vote-getting candidates will advance to the general election, so unless someone else files, both Oertwich and Kuehler will be on the ballot in November.