2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Unicameral, District 31

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

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Candidates

Mark B. Gruenewald (R):
Occupation: Licensed Insurance Advisor
Current Public Office, dates held: Director of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District
Education: B.S. Of Agricultural Economic with a Computer/Chemistry minor

Alexander J. Martin (D):
Occupation: Service Manager
Current Public Office, dates held: None.
Past Public Office, dates held: None.
Education: BBA
Military Experience: Navy
Volunteer Experience: Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, UNAIDS.

Rich Pahls (R): No response received.

Tim Royers (D):
Website: www.royers2020.com
Occupation: Teacher
Education: Bachelor of Science in Social Science Education, Master of Arts in History, Master of Science in Educational Leadership and Administration
Volunteer Experience: YMCA, Volunteer Coach Teen Center, Volunteer Instructor

Melanie Williams (D):
Occupation: Executive Dir. Family Advocacy Movement
Current Public Office, dates held: Appointed Member of the Nebraska Children’s Commission (appointed in 2019 for 2 year term) / Current elected member of the Douglas County Democratic Party Central Committee (2016-present)
Past Public Office, dates held: Nebraska Democratic Party State Central Committee, 2016-2019
Education: Dundee Elementary School, Omaha Central High school, Omaha University of Nebraska at Omaha – Majored in English in 1978 / Returned to major in Communications/Journalism in 1988 and again in 2004. Focuses: Sociology, Women’s Studies, Black History
Military Experience: None.
Volunteer Experience: In early college years, I volunteered at the Omaha Children’s Museum. In 2009, I founded the Family Advocacy Movement (FAM) which has provided a decade of volunteer advocacy for families and children intertwined with child welfare & juvenile justice.

Candidate Responses

Does Nebraska need to change its method of redistricting? Why or why not?

Alexander J. Martin: For Sure. Let’s try to be fair

Tim Royers: Yes. We need an independent commission to draft any modifications to political boundaries for the Legislature to approve. The redistricting process should be designed to be as non-partisan as possible.

Melanie Williams: Yes. The only way to ensure democratic representation for citizens is by independent, non-partisan remapping that does not favor one party affiliation over another. Our current system is undemocratic, as it provides for partisan redistricting – first via legislative committee that is overwhelmingly comprised of Republican state senators, then via the full Unicameral, with a significant Republican majority, and finally our Republican governor, who can use his veto power, benefitting Republicans.

How should the problem of prison overcrowding be handled?

Mark B. Gruenewald: Over 40% of the inmates suffer in prison suffer from mental illness. Re-opening lock down mental health facilities in Norfolk and Hastings will solve prison overcrowding. So, will having ICE deport those who qualify. The Win/Win is Omaha no longer needs to waste more than $100M for a needless new prison. Out state communities familiar with dealing with mental health facilities are revitalized. The need for mental health is a growth industry. Nebraska was a leader. It can be again.

Alexander J. Martin: Stop incarcerating non violent drug offenders for one?

Tim Royers: Thoroughly examining sentencing guidelines, and assessing what we currently offer to assist people in completing their sentences so they can successfully return to the community and have gainful employment. Reducing recidivism is critical to addressing prison overcrowding.

Melanie Williams: First we must take back from private interests and ownerships the public responsibility of addressing incarceration & rehabilitation. We do not need to build more prisons in a country that already incarcerates more citizens per capita than any other country on earth, including China. Further, the systemic racism that is endemic to our country is also evident by the disproportionate minority populations of jails – far too many for victimless crimes, exacerbated by the devastating “War on Drugs.”

Do you feel there is a need for voter ID, if so why and how should it be implemented?

Mark B. Gruenewald: Yes, it makes no sense for illegal immigrants and others who game the system (vote early, vote often) to have the right. They vote for their self-interest. They, needlessly, gain the power to make hard-working taxpayers’ foot their bills. After meeting our social net responsibility for citizens, it is time to kick the rest out of the cart. Input is welcome.

Alexander J. Martin: I don’t feel the need for voter ID

Tim Royers: No, voter id is unnecessary. There is no evidence to indicate that there is any kind of voter fraud that would necessitate an ID requirement. More importantly, ID requirements have the potential to disenfranchise. And unless those IDs are provided free of cost, such a requirement could potentially violate the 24th amendment.

Melanie Williams: Absolutely not. We must work to expand and protect democracy, which includes tearing down barriers to voting, not building more. While this issue has been promoted, there has been no legitimate or significant evidence of voter fraud related to “voter imposters.” Voter ID laws undemocratically target impoverished, minority, and historically disenfranchised populations the most – those more likely to vote against unfair austerity & weakened civil liberties measures, favored by Republican policies.

Should there be increased restrictions on money in politics? Why or why not and what specific restrictions would you support? 

Mark B. Gruenewald: It is time for the electorate to demand that their votes or the right to vote on an item be respected. Too many times, local public boards and officials have gone to the legislature to have foolish senators override a vote by the people that they, purportedly, represent.

Alexander J. Martin: I say all money out of politics. I’ve spent zero dollars on my campaign.

Tim Royers: Yes. This would really necessitate work at the federal level to overturn the current precedent established by Citizens United v. FEC

Melanie Williams: Yes. I am in favor of overturning Citizens United and reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act. Democracy and public interests are not best served when big-money and the super wealthy are able to use their private money for campaign financing, influencing our elections, gaining unequal access to lawmakers, and unduly shaping public policy. We should move toward public financing of campaigns & public elections, and away from lobbyists peddling private money/support, in exchange for political favors.

Does Nebraska need a paid family medical leave program? Why or why not? 

Mark B. Gruenewald: Yes, this and the homestead exemption will free funds that help families and healthcare workers keep our elderly in their homes. Keeping the individual’s money in the right hands for their benefit and away from unscrupulous agencies and individuals is appropriate.

Alexander J. Martin: Yes. Why? Covid19.

Tim Royers: Yes. The current COVID-19 outbreak has exposed a significant vulnerability with the lack of family leave impacting the community. We need paid family leave to not only help with the health and economic security of those people that would use those days, but also for the benefit of everyone else in the community.

Melanie Williams: Working families are not disposable cogs, but people. Lives are complex and full of uncertainty. The wealthiest country on earth can certainly afford to treat people with dignity by offering sustainable, good-paying work, and by not allowing unplanned & important life events to upend and displace. There are many reasons why working people may need to take personal time away from their jobs, while still having the ability to pay all bills. For a more stable economy, this right must be guaranteed

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