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Gubernatorial candidate Chuck Hassebrook (D. NE)
Another race we all need to keep our eyes on:

A minimum-wage hike initiative that appears poised to go on Nebraska’s fall ballot might be a perfect wedge issue for the state’s Democratic candidates.

It also will likely prompt more young and low-income workers to go to the polls, which could boost Democratic prospects.

“There are Democratic political operatives in this state who can’t wipe the smile off their face as they think about using this issue to turn out voters in the fall,” said Chris Peterson, a Republican political operative who has talked with a few Democrats about the issue. “They’re giddy about it. They couldn’t be happier.”

Several Democrats who spoke on the record were more circumspect. They acknowledged the ballot initiative would likely increase voter turnout among young voters — who are traditionally more Democratic — but they said there was no guarantee those voters would favor the Democratic slate.

“The candidate of either party should not take those votes for granted,” said State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, a Democrat from Omaha who helped lead the petition drive to put the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The one thing Democrats as well as Republicans did agree on is that if the initiative does qualify for the ballot, it will likely pass: In almost every other state that has voted on the issue in the past 10 years — whether the state leans Democratic or Republican — voters have embraced a higher minimum wage. - Omaha World-Herald, 7/6/14

Here's a little more info:

Supporters of a state minimum wage increase announced Thursday they have gathered more than 134,000 signatures, far more than the number required to place the issue on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

The initiative petitions, displayed in boxes piled high in the Capitol Rotunda at a celebratory event, appear to contain the cushion required to overcome the inevitable disqualification of some signatures once they are validated by election officials.

Signatures of 81,000-plus registered voters are required to gain entry to the ballot as a citizen initiative.

The proposed increase in the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8 an hour in 2015 and $9 an hour in 2016 has the potential to drive voter turnout in November and fuel voter registration drives in advance of the election.  

The wage rate has been $7.25 since 2009.

The issue conceivably could impact the gubernatorial contest and a bundle of state legislative races.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chuck Hassebrook was a spectator at Thursday's announcement and said during an interview following the event that "this will be a very defining issue" in his contest with Republican nominee Pete Ricketts.

"It's an important contrast," Hassebrook said.

"CEO salaries have gone up 50 percent in the last four years and he (Ricketts) has benefited from that, but my opponent opposes raising the minimum wage one penny." - Lincoln Journal Star, 7/3/14

Of course GOP and business groups oppose raising the minimum wage but they may not try to do anything to stop it:

The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Pete Ricketts, opposes a minimum wage hike.

The legislative bill faced opposition from some business groups and from the Platte Institute, an Omaha-based free-market think tank founded and led for a time by Ricketts.
Jim Vokal, the Platte Institute’s executive director, said Thursday that he doesn’t know if there will be an organized campaign against the measure.

But he said the institute will work to get out information about the detrimental effects of raising the minimum wage.

He said an increase would hurt small business owners by raising their costs and hurt low-wage workers by curbing job growth and business investment in training. Some businesses also may look to automation as costs rise, he said.

“It’s an economic cause and effect that has happened and will be shown to happen,” Vokal said.

Omaha attorney Steve Seline, president of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said chambers of commerce in the state may work together to tell voters why Nebraska voters should not increase the state’s minimum wage.

The Omaha chamber’s position is that the way to increase people’s incomes is to boost workers’ skills so they qualify for higher-paying jobs, he said.

Raising the minimum wage may cause price increases that disproportionately affect lower-income people, Seline said. For example, a high-end restaurant would be less likely to raise prices than a fast-food restaurant.

Not all business groups may be on board, however.

Barry Kennedy, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he has heard no concerns about the proposal from any members.

In general, he said the state chamber believes that the state minimum wage should mirror the federal one. But he said he thinks chamber members already pay above the minimum wage.

“It just isn’t anything that causes us great heartburn,” Kennedy said.

The Nebraska Restaurant Association, although it opposed the minimum wage bill, has not taken a position yet on the petition drive, said Jim Partington, the association’s executive director.

Petition backers argued that a higher minimum wage would strengthen the state’s economy by putting more money in consumers’ pockets.

Sen. Conrad said the money creates jobs by boosting demand. She said it also reduces the number of families needing public benefits to get by.

The federal minimum applies to businesses with gross incomes of more than $500,000 a year, those that do business across state lines, hospitals, schools and some others. The state minimum wage applies to businesses with four or more employees. - Norfolk Daily News, 7/4/14

This is another race that looks like it could be a serious pick up opportunity for us.  The tides are changing, even in red state America.  Click here to donate and get involved with Hassebrock's campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 01:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I suppose that depends . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    . . . on where you live in Nebraska.

    I know of only one other person in my town that signed the petition for the minimum wage hike.

    The fellow from Bridgeport carrying the petition around the village did note my yard sign though (wow, someone here supporting a progressive?) for Dave Domina's US Senate campaign.

    "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

    by Village Vet on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 02:23:52 PM PDT

  •  Hassebrook can win this race (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Chuck Hassebrook is an unusually strong Democrat running in a red state.  He has already raised more than $1 million and he is putting in place an impressive field organization.  In contrast, the GOP nominee - Pete Ricketts - only escaped from a multi-candidate primary with 27% of the vote.  His status as the son of a billionaire even makes Nebraskans suspicious of his motivation for running.  People need to keep an eye on this race.  Hassebrook may pull off the upset of the cycle.  

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