Primary election contestants gather for Tuesday forum


Candidates for the two contested primary races in Wayne County were friendly and forthright as they answered about 10 questions from the reporter-estimated 60 in attendance at the Wayne Senior Center for Tuesday's political forum sponsored by the Wayne Area Chamber's Government Affairs Committee.
Candidates for Ward Two of the Wayne City Council and the District 17 seat in the Nebraska Legislature spent about 90 minutes answering constituents' questions on a number of issues, from housing in Wayne to making medicinal marijuana legal in Nebraska. Wayne Area Chamber executive director Wes Blecke served as the moderator for the discussion.
All of the candidates running for the two positions that will be up for election in the May 10 primary were in attendance. Incumbent Ward Two Councilwoman Jennifer Sievers was joined by her opponents, Josie Broders and Reed Allen. The three candidates for the Legislature District 17 seat that will be vacated by the outgoing Sen. Dave Bloomfield – Ardel Bengtson, Joni Albrecht and Lou Benscoter – also were in attendance.
Wayne's future growth was a popular topic of discussion for those quizzing the City Council candidates, and all three expressed a desire to see housing options improve in the community.
"I know there are a lot of jobs (in Wayne), and they're not poor-paying jobs," Broders said. "I'm really excited for Wayne and the things that are happening right now."
"There are current jobs open and the variety is great, and when you create jobs, the growth comes as the housing comes in," Sievers added.
"One of the ways we need to continue to expand on housing is by offering (tax-increment) financing," Allen said. "Wayne has done a lot of that in the past, and it can incentivize builders to build affordable houses."
The Legislative candidates were given a choice to talk about the death penalty or medical marijuana. Albrecht chose the death penalty, while Bengtson and Benscoter both discussed medical marijuana.
Albrecht said she would look at al the options before making a final decision, but did say she felt law enforcement should have every tool available to deal with criminals.
"It's very important that we have a tool for law enforcement to use to take care of the hardened criminals who sit in our jails for years," she said.
Both Bengtson and Benscoter cited losing their spouses to cancer in their desire to see something done with medical marijuana.
"My husband died of cancer, and if there had been something that made it possible for him to get a good night's sleep that was different from feeding him opiates, I would have loved to have had an option like that," she said. "I would like to have it as an option, because there are families out there that have those conditions that it would help."
"I saw a lot of suffering and some patients where it worked," Benscoter added. "We're not going to cut it loose like Colorado, but let's try it. Let's not handcuff everybody."
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