Six candidates are challenging U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith for the 3rd District congressional seat.
On the May 12 ballot are Democratic candidate Mark Elworth Jr., Libertarian candidate Dustin Hobbs, and Republicans Larry Bolinger, William Elfgen, Justin Moran and Arron Kowalski.
Mark Elworth Jr.
Elworth is a "cannabis activist" candidate, advocating hemp production and medical marijuana, arguing it would benefit farms, the economy and environment.
"As far as farming goes, it can be a bumper crop. It doesn't take chemicals. It cleans your soil," he said. "It also means less people growing corn and soy, so those prices should also go up. It's newly emerging, because the farm bill legalized it a year ago, but we're going to make industrial products out of it, even food."
He added, "It's environmentally friendly and sustainable."
Also a great issue facing Nebraska is the state population becoming older and losing its younger citizens, meaning a loss of revenue, Elworth said.
Coming from the third party ranks, Elworth touts himself as more conservative than not, and said he is proud that he "works both sides of the aisle."
"I am for smaller government. I'm for smarter government, for not wasteful government," he said. "There's a lot of bureaucracy and I'd rather save that money or use it for something useful like covering people with health insurance or industry innovation."
Kowalski is pursuing the 3rd District seat because he did not see any other candidates "running on a solid ag agenda."
"We're facing a farm crisis and the whole pandemic has accelerated that crisis even further," he said. "Without someone in Washington who is actually a good representative of the district, I don't think our issues are going to be properly addressed."
These problems existed well before the arrival of the coronavirus, Kowalski said.
"I've been seeing the ag crisis coming for three years, which is why I ran last election, as well, because they're not getting addressed," he said. "If something is not done, our way of life will likely come to an end as the ag economy will begin to consolidate, become more of a corporate enterprise, as opposed to a small family farm operation."
Being from Grand Island, Kowalski added that he understands both rural and urban realities.
Kowalski is optimistic about his campaign despite limits placed in the wake of the epidemic.
"Nobody should be going out doing in-person campaigning, but from the feedback I've been getting a lot of people are liking what I'm saying," he said. "Whether that will lead to a victory I'm not sure, but I will continue to pursue this on all cylinders."
This is Bolinger's second run for the 3rd District seat. He's also attempted to run for Alliance city council and the Nebraska Legislature.
"I see a lot of areas we need to improve on and change," he said. "A lot of times when I run for office I bring those up, but they never get changed, so I end up building a bigger and bigger platform every time I run because the current administration refuses to address them."
A key issue for Bolinger is police violating citizens' civil rights.
"Police were harassing citizens quite a bit and I brought up some of those issues," he said. "City manager refused to acknowledge the laws that he was breaking and what ended up happening was, he was replaced and everybody voted out the entire council."
He added, "Government is supposed to listen to the people."
Bolinger feels he can make a difference if elected.
"Having someone in office who's going to actually argue and protect people's rights is a big plus," he said. "It should be a big part of anybody who's in any stage of government."
Coronavirus-related measures such as social distancing have impacted his ability to campaign, yet Bolinger said he remains optimistic.
"I've been able to get campaign signs out and talk to a few people, but you're limited to door knocking," he said. "Lot of people out in different parts of Nebraska, I've been able to mail signs to them."
Elfgren, of Overton, is challenging Smith in the 3rd District because he feels someone is needed who can truly represent the people of Nebraska.
"I went around asking people if they knew who their representative was. There were only two people who knew who Adrian Smith was," Elfgren said. "It hit me that we have an elected representative who no one really knows or cares about."
He added, "If the people don't know who you are, how can you know what the people want?"
Elfgren is also motivated to run by his children.
"I don't want them to grow up in a world where their thoughts and dreams are not even taken into account," he said.
Nebraska's greatest problem, aside from coronavirus, is health care costs.
"That goes from prescriptions to going to the hospital or clinic," he said. "Insurance itself is crazy."
The entire health care system needs to be revamped, Elfgren said.
"I don't have a specific fix, or the answer to the problem, but I know how to get to one, and it's going to require experts," he said. "We're going to have to meticulously go through the process from the bottom up."
What Nebraska needs is someone who will take action on behalf of its people, Moran said.
"I heard enough people telling me they're looking for a change in representation, somebody who can get something done," he said. "After talking with a bunch of farmers and ranchers, this was the best action we decided to take."
The greatest issue facing Nebraska, Moran said, is the environment.
"We're really worried about our waterways. They're sixth in the nation for pollutants," he said. "Some of that we cause, but it's time to jump on that stuff."
Despite social restrictions, Moran feels his message is finding an audience.
"I'm seeing a rising on my website in page views. I'm getting feedback from other people," he said. "I think it's looking really good."
"First and foremost, we need to stop the spread of COVID-19 and get our economy back on track as soon as possible. With my support, Congress and President (Donald) Trump have enacted legislation to help seniors, families and businesses during the pandemic," Adrian Smith told the Lee BHM News Service. "More assistance may be needed as we continue to learn more about the harm caused by this disease."
An issue Smith thinks is important is economic growth.
"We need to embrace pro-growth policies, such as comprehensive regulatory reform along with solutions to expand exports to benefit Nebraska's farmers, ranchers and small businesses," Smith said.
Another priority issue for Smith is immigration and national security, he said.
"American leadership is needed in a world which is rapidly growing more dangerous," Smith said. "We must reform our immigration system to protect our borders. We must also demonstrate strength and leadership to safeguard our national security and ensure our military has the support they need."
Lee BHM News Service was unable to reach Hobbs for an interview before publication.