- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

The Grand Island Independent. April 13, 2014.

Civic engagement important during election season

With the May 13 primary election fast approaching, voters face a daunting challenge to select from a confounding number of candidates in state and local races, including a broad field of seven candidates for the U.S. Senate and eight for governor.

Nebraska is, indeed, blessed to have so many strong, qualified leaders willing to serve in public office.

Nebraska is a closed primary state which means only voters registered as Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian can vote.

In addition to the high profile races for U.S. Senate and governor there are other important races for state auditor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, three races for U.S. Congress and a host of other local and regional offices. Again, this election season has drawn a stellar batch of candidates across the board.

Republicans dominate the ballot in the two major Nebraska races and voters are finding it difficult to simply keep all the names straight, let alone develop meaningful insight into the relative differences and core values of each candidate. With so many candidates vying to advance through the primary, debates, campaign stops, press conferences and, of course, campaign advertising have become an omnipresent part of life this spring.

The clutter of campaign advertising messages on the airwaves does little to enlighten the electorate, but certainly serves to cause would-be voters to either tune out or react emotionally. Campaign strategists often bank on negative advertising to get their candidates elected. Many studies have been conducted to gauge the impact of negative or attack advertising; however, no conclusive results have proven the effectiveness of this type of advertising. In fact, political ads are simply too nuanced to be neatly categorized as either positive or negative.

As a general rule of thumb, the coveted voter reacts with revulsion upon viewing an attack ad about his or her candidate, but sees wisdom and enlightenment in an equally negative ad directed at an opposing candidate. We believe that Nebraskans are more skeptical of negative advertising than voters in the urbanized parts of the country and that they are more engaged and fiercely independent.

Civic engagement is enormously important in our free society. The best choices are made by informed voters. The flood of negative political advertising tends to polarize and disenfranchise the electorate. We urge Nebraska citizens to look beyond the polished and pointed messages; pay close attention to the candidate’s background, what they stand for, and what they are saying. Then, go to the polls and exercise the great privilege of deciding who will lead. The future of Nebraska rests with those who take their civic responsibility seriously.

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Scottsbluff Star-Herald. April 12, 2014.

Innovation: Ag, science team up to extract more value from Nebraska farm products

In Nebraska, agriculture is the engine that runs the state’s economy. It requires land and water. Because new sources of either are unlikely, the greatest opportunities for growth come from making the most of what the industry already has.

There’s a lot of good news on that front.

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